INDIANAPOLIS — Jonathan Taylor began earning his three-year, $42 million extension with 3 minutes remaining in the first quarter Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
A pitch left for 3 yards.
“Man, it’s been a journey,’’ the Indianapolis Colts’ star running back said. “To be able to finally step back out on the field today, with my brothers, that was a good feeling. It’s been a while and just trying to get the feet wet, get back into it.
“The NFL is a physical game, so just being able to work yourself back in. It felt great. I don’t know anybody who says this, but it felt great getting hit just because you haven’t felt that.’’
It was Taylor’s first game experience since Dec. 17 against the Minnesota Vikings. A lengthy rehab following Jan. 25 surgery on his right ankle was complicated by his desire for an extension and involved contentious months with the team.
All that mattered Sunday as the Colts handled the Tennessee Titans, 23-16, was easing Taylor back into the offense. He finished with 18 yards on six carries and added a 16-yard reception that converted a first-and-10.
“He played well,’’ Colts coach Shane Steichen said. “It’s great to have him back. Like I said, the home run ability that he brings to us as we keep going . . . it’ll be good.
“Anytime you get a big-time player like that back in your locker room, obviously it helps everything. It helps the energy of the room and all that stuff, and that’s what he brings.’’
The energy level in Lucas Oil Stadium already was high as the offense was being introduced. It ratcheted up several notches as Taylor was the last Colt player to emerge from the smoke in the tunnel.
He gestured to the crowd as he bounced onto the field.
“It was awesome,’’ Taylor said. “We got the best fans in the whole United States, really the world. Just to hear them scream and roar coming out the tunnel when all we’re doing is doing what we love, that’s priceless.’’
For the first time, Taylor addressed an extension that makes him one of the NFL’s highest-paid running backs and tied him to Indy through 2026.
“It means a lot,’’ he said. “Just to be able to know that I’m going to be here playing for the best fans in the world, playing with some of the best players in the world and just know that it’s a family atmosphere here.
“Like I said from day one after my first season, I always wanted to retire a Colt. To be able to take another step towards that, it’s amazing.’’
Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how Steichen uses Taylor and Zack Moss in the backfield. Moss piled up a career-high 165 yards and two TDs against the Titans.
“I think it can get really scary,’’ Taylor said. “I mean, and I think you guys got a taste, actually, not even today you guys got a taste. You guys have been getting a taste the past few weeks with Zack. Now, it’s on me in order to continue to do my part and continue to help this team.’’
Minshew shines off the bench
For the second time in five games, Gardner Minshew II was pressed into extended work after Anthony Richardson sustained an injury.
In week 2 at Houston, Richardson suffered a concussion in the first quarter.
Sunday, he sprained the AC joint his right shoulder in the second quarter.
Minshew completed 11-of-14 passes for 155 yards and directed three second-half scoring drives — one touchdown and two Matt Gay field goals.
Steichen was asked if Minshew is the best backup quarterback in the league. He led the Colts to a 22-19 overtime win at Baltimore when Richardson was out with a concussion.
“Yeah, to me he is,’’ Steichen said. “I’ve been around him, and obviously, I’m biased. But the way he’s playing when he comes in, he makes plays for sure.
“I think he’s an elite processor of the game, and when you’ve got a guy that can process the game quickly and make quick decisions … he’s really good, he’s accurate, he knows where to go with the football at the right time and the right place.
“He’s awesome for us.”
After five games, Minshew is 57-of-83 for 553 yards with two touchdowns and a 95.1 quarterback rating.
This and that
Linebacker Zaire Franklin led the Colts with 12 tackles, highlighted by his fourth-and-1 stop of Derrick Henry. He’s the only player in the NFL with at least 10 tackles in all five games.
The win was the 550th regular-season victory in Indy/Baltimore history.
Tight end Mo Alie-Cox sustained a concussion in the third quarter.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter/X at @mchappell51.