INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Ask for a show of hands from Indianapolis Colts eager to return to the playing field and two are prominent.
That would be running back Marlon Mack and rookie wideout Parris Campbell.
Each has been on the mend after recently fracturing his right hand. Campbell has missed four games and Mack two.
Each is ready for Sunday’s road test against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I’m doing well, coming along good,’’ Mack said Friday. “I had a good week.’’
Ditto, Campbell. He was close to returning for last Sunday’s loss to Tennessee but lacked total confidence in his ability to catch the football.
“This was a big week for me just to be able to do everything, just get a feel for it. But 100 percent,’’ Campbell said. “Today just solidified it. It was cold and catching balls from Jacoby (Brissett).
“I’ve been a lot more comfortable this week.’’
Campbell’s return should offer a boost to the offense considering T.Y. Hilton remains out with a calf injury.
Mack, meanwhile, is one of the offensive cornerstones. His 862 yards rank 10th in the NFL despite the two missed games.
The issue against a Buccaneers’ defense that ranks No. 2 in fewest rushing yards per game (76.3) and per attempt (3.4): how heavy of a workload should Mack anticipate?
Frank Reich said it’s likely all four running backs – Mack, Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins, Jonathan Williams – will be active for the game, and should expect some level of activity.
“Even when (Mack is) humming, we don’t hesitate to rotate those guys,’’ he said.
But Reich also made it clear “Marlon’s going to get the bulk of the carries.’’
The primary concern for Mack and Campbell is ball security. Each will wear some type of protective glove on his right hand.
The team has done everything possible to simulate what Mack and Campbell can anticipate against the Bucs, who undoubtedly will do everything possible to test the stability of each player’s right hand.
Mack has yet to fumble this season despite handling 204 total “touches’’ – 192 rushes, 12 receptions. Campbell has suffered three fumbles, losing one.
“Thursday when we were kind of full speed we had ball security things,’’ Reich said. “It’s not like being in a game, but obviously feel that’s as close as we’re going to get.
“It’s more about how it feels. It’s the kind of injury that once it’s good, it’s good. I think (Mack) feels confident in it and that’s the main thing. He’s done everything he can do to simulate some pressure on it, some hitting on it, and feels like he’s ready to go.’’
Mack said he tried to get as much contact on the hand as the controlled practices allow.
“I hit a couple of sleds out there, bumped against Justin (Houston) a little bit, not too hard, but just a good little something,’’ he said. “I’m going to go out there game time and see how it feels.’’
Mack said he’s not experiencing “too much pain’’ and the swelling in the hand is subsiding. He might have to alter one phase of his physical style: that jarring stiff-arm with his right hand.
“I’m just going to try to adjust and just go with the flow, man, try to protect it,’’ he said. “Basically I’m still going to try to use it and just go out there and play.
“In the NFL, if you think about an injury it’s going to hurt you. I’m just going to go out there and be me and go from there.’’
The timing couldn’t be better for Mack’s return. It’ll occur in Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium, which also serves as the home venue for South Florida. In three seasons with the Bulls, Mack set school records with 3,609 yards and 32 touchdowns.
“This is going back playing where I played at in college,’’ he said. “It’s something special. I’m just used to it, man. I’m used to that stadium. I just like it, man. I grew up playing in it.’’
Mack’s home is 40 minutes away and he anticipates a strong following at the game from family and friends.
Vinny out, McLaughlin in
Adam Vinatieri (left knee), Hilton and cornerback Kenny Moore II (ankle) were ruled out of the game. That means rookie and recently acquired Chase McLaughlin will handle the kicking against the Bucs.
Reich always takes his kicker’s skills into in-game strategy, and that means relying on McLaughlin’s brief resume. He’s converted 13-of-17 field goal attempts and all 15 of his PATs during kicking for the Los Angeles Chargers and San Francisco 49ers.
“For our charts, we’ll use his statistics for this year,’’ Reich said. “We’ll trust those.’’
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