INDIANAPOLIS – All signs point to the Indianapolis Colts getting one front-line player back for Sunday’s primetime meeting with the San Francisco 49ers, but being without another.
All-Pro left guard Quenton Nelson is on track to be activated off the injured reserve list and assume his spot on the offensive line, but wideout T.Y. Hilton might miss his sixth game of the season, this time with a quadriceps injury.
Coach Frank Reich ruled five players out of Sunday’s game: safety Julian Blackmon, who tore an Achilles tendon in Wednesday’s practice and his headed to IR; right tackle Braden Smith (foot), cornerback Rock Ya-Sin (ankle), defensive end Kemoko Turay (groin) and running back Jordan Wilkins (non-football illness).
He also stopped just short of ruling out Hilton, who didn’t practice this week after suffering a quad injury in the fourth quarter of last Sunday’s win over the Houston Texans. It was Hilton’s first appearance of the season after missing the first five games following neck surgery.
Hilton is listed questionable on the game-status report.
“Not going to rule him out,’’ Reich said. “We’re going to evaluate it tomorrow. It’s probably not likely he’s going to go, but I’m not going to rule it out just yet.
“Just want to talk to him tomorrow, see how he’s feeling tomorrow. We pushed it today to see if he was close. Because it’s TY just want to wait one more day before making any final determination.’’
That’s not the case with Nelson. The three-time first-team All-Pro returned to practice this week after missing three games with a high sprain to his right ankle.
“We feel good about Quenton,’’ Reich said. “We’ll kind of give it another day here, but I’m very optimistic with Quenton.’’
“He handled (practice) well. He looked good. I expect all systems to be go.’’
Wideout Parris Campbell underwent surgery to address a foot injury suffered against Houston, and his rehab time is in the two to three months range.
“He could be back,’’ Reich said. “If you do the math on eight weeks, there’s a few weeks to go in the regular season.
“Certainly not going to rule that out. Parris is of the mindset he’s going to work hard. We’ll just see how it plays out.’’
Leonard vs. Warner
They came in together in 2018 and remain linked by performance and contract.
Darius Leonard entered the NFL as the Colts’ second-round pick, the 36th overall selection. Fred Warner followed as the San Francisco 49ers’ third-rounder, 70th overall.
Each made an immediate impact that’s been lasting, and they’ve been appropriately compensated.
In July, the Niners signed Warner to a five-year, $95 million extension that included $40.5 million in guarantees. That made him the league’s highest-paid non-edge rushing linebacker.
Two months later, that designation belonged to Leonard. The Colts ponied up a five-year, $98.25 million extension with $52.5 million in guarantees.
Trying to determine which team made the better investment is ridiculous. Both are top-end at their position. Leonard is a two-time first-team All-Pro and two-time Pro Bowl selection. He was Defensive Rookie of the Year and led the NFL with a franchise-record 163 tackles. Warner was first-team All-Pro and a Pro Bowler last season.
The stats heading into Sunday’s primetime meeting:
Leonard (six games): 45 tackles, including 28 solos, two tackles for loss, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, a team-high six passes defensed.
Warner (five games): 45 tackles, including 29 solos, two tackles for loss, one pass defensed.
And the career picture:
Leonard (48 starts): 461 tackles, including 296 solos, 28 tackles for loss, 15 sacks, nine interceptions, 11 forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries, 26 passes defensed.
Leonard is the only player in NFL history with nine interceptions and 11 forced fumbles in his first 48 games. The nine interceptions are the most by a linebacker since 2018.
Warner (53 starts): 412 tackles, including 282 solos, 17 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, three interceptions, five forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, 22 passes defensed.
The Colts are one of the NFL’s best at ball security, and as a result reside near the top the league’s influential takeaway-giveaway category.
They’re tied for 3rd at a plus-7: 12 takeaways by the defense against five turnovers by the offense. The five turnovers are tied for the second-fewest in the league. Only Buffalo (16), Dallas (14) and Arizona (13) have more takeaways.
More important, the Colts have capitalizing on their takeaway-giveaway advantage.
They’re a plus-37 in points scored off turnovers – 3rd-best in the league. Following the 12 takeaways, they’ve generated 43 points (five touchdowns, three field goals) while the defense has allowed just two field goals following the five turnovers.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.