INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – There should be no question regarding T.Y. Hilton’s value to the Indianapolis Colts.
As they say, you can look it up. Or, you can listen to T.Y. Hilton.
“We (were) 5-2 and I was healthy,’’ the four-time Pro Bowl wideout said Monday. “It’s tough, man. We won two games after that.’’
The Colts’ dramatic slide coincided with Hilton tearing a calf muscle in an Oct. 30 practice leading up to the Pittsburgh game.
Hilton revealed he sustained a “2-centimeter’’ calf tear in a non-contact drill. It forced him to miss the next three games – he returned at less than 100% for the Nov. 21 trip to Houston – but was just the beginning.
“When I came back and tried to practice, I made it worse,’’ he said. “It went from 2 to 3 centimeters. It was very tough.’’
He re-injured the calf Nov. 27 and would miss two more games, but insisted he was 100% when he was back on he field for the Dec. 16 visit to New Orleans.
By season’s end, Hilton had missed six games; a quad issue kept him out of the week 4 game with Oakland. In his previous seven seasons, Hilton had missed a total of four games.
“We were in some of those games,’’ he said. “I wish I was out there.’’
The Colts are 1-9 when forced to play without Hilton.
He admitted this season was his most frustrating from an injury standpoint. That was both individual and collective.
“We just got hit with the injury bug, man,’’ Hilton said. “Receivers going down after receivers. It’s tough.
“Normally, it would be a receiver, then maybe a corner or somebody else. But it was all the receivers.’’
The list indeed was long: Devin Funchess, Chester Rogers, Parris Campbell, Reece Fountain, Steve Ishmael.
At no point did he consider surgery or being placed on the injured reserve list.
“It was tough, man, but I was like, ‘I don’t care. I got all the offseason to rest,’’’ Hilton said. “I just wanted to be out there with my teammates and just give them the spark that they needed.
“Just didn’t work out.’’
Not surprisingly, Hilton’s eighth season will be his least productive: 45 receptions, 501 yards and five TDs. He averaged just 11.1 yards per catch, easily the lowest of his career (13.2 in 2013). His career average is a crisp 15.6.
Hilton turned 30 in November and has one year remaining on the five-year, $65 million extension he signed in August 2015. It’s possible the Colts will approach him about another extension.
“I’m not worried about that right now,’’ he said. “Just go rest, heal up and come back ready to work. That’s between my agent and Chris and them.
“We get something done, we get something done.’’
Does Hilton believe he still can be the playmaking wideout the offense desperately needs?
“Absolutely,’’ he said. “You (saw) it yesterday.’’
In Sunday’s season-ending 38-20 loss at Jacksonville, Hilton had three receptions and 72 yards – that’s 24 yards per catch – on just three targets.
“I showed it when I was playing,’’ he said. “I was just making the most of my opportunities.’’
And that’s something Frank Reich realizes he must address. Injuries or not, Hilton must be afforded more opportunities. Over the final three games – when Hilton insisted he was 100 percent – he had just 10 catches for 123 yards on 16 targets.
“He looked good yesterday. I mean, he looked fast,’’ Reich said. “You just want to get him the ball more.
“If we’re going to fulfill our vision and win the games that we want to win, he has to be the center of it.
“We are still going to be a run-the-ball team, but T.Y. has to be at the center of it. He is a great player, and it is our responsibility to get him involved and get him the ball.’’
The team quickly moved to address several personnel issues.
It signed wideout Zach Pascal, tight end Mo Alie-Cox and placekicker Chase McLaughlin to one-year extensions. Each would have been exclusive-rights free agents.
McLaughlin appears to be the heir apparent to veteran Adam Vinatieri. Since taking over when Vinatieri went on IR with a knee injury, McLaughlin converted 16-of-17 kicks: 5-of-6 field goals and 11-of-11 PATs.
Pascal helped compensate for Hilton’s extended absence with 41 catches, 607 yards and five TDs. All were career highs.
The Colts also signed 14 players to reserve/future contracts: running backs Bruce Anderson III and Darius Jackson; tight ends Ian Bunting, Matt Lengel and Xavier Grimble; offensive tackles Andrew Donnal, Cedrick Lang and Travis Vornkahl; guard Chaz Green; defensive end Gerri Green; wideout Malik Henry; and cornerbacks Picasso Nelson Jr., Lafayette Pitts and Jackson Porter.
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