Colts linebacker Darius Leonard.
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - AUGUST 24: Darius Leonard #53 of the Indianapolis Colts is seen before a preseason game against the Chicago Bears at Lucas Oil Stadium on August 24, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Colts Friday Notebook: Darius Leonard Unlikely To Play Against Bengals

INDIANAPOLIS Normally, a 5:00 AM wake-up time for Frank Reich is pretty status quo, but this Friday rise had the head coach immediately going to work.

Chris Ballard was on the other end of that very early morning phone call on Friday to inform Reich that the Colts had four positive COVID-19 tests.

Even though there was an indication that the tests could be false positives, Reich and the Colts decided to close down their team facility until they could receive confirmation via re-tests.

With Ballard communicating to the league office about the Colts’ situation, it was Reich’s job to get ahold of his coordinators and coaching staff to prepare just in case Sunday’s matchup with the Bengals was to be postponed to Monday, Tuesday or pushed out even further.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we closed the building down, (went) through the normal protocols, re-run the tests, all the normal stuff,” Reich explained. “The tests come back negative. Out of an abundance of caution, even though they were re-run negative, we kept those 4 people out of the building for the day just for extra, extra pre-caution. We re-adjusted, still had meetings and still got the same exact amount of meeting time in, went through all of our meetings just like we normally would and then we came in and got practice in. Went through all of our normal walk-through and then all of our reps that we would normally get through in a day. So feel good about our the preparation even thought it was a slightly adjusted schedule.”

In the end, the Colts will still be playing this Sunday against the Bengals, after having to alter their final day of on-field work this week, by pushing practice back by about 90 minutes, and going at a lighter pace.

Once the Colts received confirmation of the false positives, everyone returned to the building (outside of the four people who had the initial positive test) following virtual meetings in the morning.

The Colts had a ‘jog through’ instead of a normal speed practice on Friday, having to adhere to the NFL’s intensive COVID protocol, which included players wearing masks on the field.

Reich stressed that the Colts got plenty of work done and it felt like a ‘normal Friday.’

What else did we learn from the Colts on a busier than usual Friday?

  • The Colts are listing LB-Darius Leonard (groin) as doubtful for Sunday, meaning he is not expected to play against the Bengals. Leonard hasn’t had a full speed practice in two weeks (and the Colts have their bye next week).
  • Veteran left tackle Anthony Castonzo (ribs) practiced every day this week and will be listed as questionable. The fact that Castonzo practiced every day this week should be a good sign for him returning to the lineup. Frank Reich said a final decision on Castonzo playing this week would come after talking with the vet on Saturday. Castonzo practiced FULL on Thursday and Friday.
  • Tight end Mo Alie-Cox (knee) will miss his first game of the season on Sunday. Alie-Cox was leading the team in receiving earlier this season, but he’s had just 1 catch in the last two games (54 snaps).
  • Although the national anthem was not shown on CBS prior to last Sunday’s game with the Browns, Frank Reich decided not to kneel during it, after he had knelt in the team’s first four games. Why did Reich change his action and stand, arms linked, with the rest of his team? “Obviously you know the issue of systematic racism and the injustice of it is very important and it something that really hurts, so we felt at the beginning of the year we wanted to make a unified statement as a team and we felt like we did that,” Reich said on Friday. “We knew at the beginning of the year we talked about, ‘Well, how long are we going to do this?’ We knew we wanted to do it more than one week because we didn’t want to it just to be an emotional reaction. We wanted to show our own conviction and show the world that this was important to our organization and that we were going to match it not only with a statement that we made during the game, but with what we did during the year and what we continue to do. We knew at some point we would make a transition. After going through it for a few games, we break our season up into quarters, so by making a stand and that statement for the first four games, that felt like the right thing to do. And now transition to the continued work of fighting against system racism and the inherit injustices that are in it. That fight isn’t going to end. Our conviction is still the same. We are just transitioning to action into the community and will continue to do so.”
  • Even though DT-Sheldon Day (knee) has been practicing for two weeks now, the Colts have yet to bring him up to the active roster. With a 21-day period to evaluate Day, who had knee surgery back this summer, the Colts have until next Wednesday to make that final decision on Day—which is either putting him on the active roster (and then cutting someone to do that) or leaving him on IR for the rest of the year.
  • Frank Reich put a major emphasis on special teams this training camp, knowing the precious preseason reps wouldn’t be coming. It’s paid off. They’ve controlled field position and rank top-10 in kick and punt return, along with kick and punt coverage.
  • The Colts continue to excel early in games when things are scripted for the offense. Of their 8 touchdowns, 4 have come on the first drive of the game. “I’ve obviously looked at every one of those drives closely and evaluated them,” Frank Reich said earlier this week. “They have been very successful. Even the one game that we didn’t score, we drove the ball all the way down the field and then turned it over in the red zone. In our opening drives, we’ve been very successful. Typically, if there are some things that you have schemed up or some things that you thought you could do, you want to get a fast start so you try to get those in early to get momentum. You want to get out in the lead, so we’ve been very efficient on those drives and very good. I would say this, we’ve stayed out of third down a lot of those drives. It’s been a lot of first down, second down, first down, second down – getting 12, 15, 18-yard plays. The only stat that really matters right – as we all know – is wins and losses, but it’s not that we don’t look at all of them. Needless to say, we need to get better at third downs, so if we’re saying ‘What’s the difference of the first draft? Why can’t we sustain that?’ I think the key area is two things. One, continue to get more chunk plays. Then secondly, get better on third down than what we’re doing right now.”
  • The Colts will have a final walk-through on Saturday, with a 1:00 PM game hosting Cincinnati (1-3-1) in front of 12,500 fans at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday.

Final Injury Report

-OUT: TE-Mo Alie-Cox (knee), OT-Chaz Green (back)

Bowen Analysis: Alie-Cox didn’t practice all week. Green practiced on Wednesday before missing Thursday and Friday.

-DOUBTFUL: LB-Darius Leonard (groin)

Bowen Analysis: This would be Leonard’s 6th missed game of his career.

QUESTIONABLE: DL-Denico Autry (ankle, knee), LT-Anthony Castonzo (rib), DE-Justin Houston (hip), RB-Jordan Wilkins (calf)

Bowen Analysis: After not practicing on Wednesday and Thursday, Autry practiced on Friday. Houston practiced on Thursday, but didn’t on Wednesday or Friday. Wilkins missed the final two days of practice after being limited on Wednesday.

The following players were on the injury report this week but have since been removed: S-Julian Blackmon (groin).

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