INDIANAPOLIS – In Week 11 of the 2020 regular season, the Colts will have their first player miss a game due to COVID-19.
Denico Autry missed Thursday’s and Friday’s practice due to an illness and the Colts put him on the COVID-19 reserve list on Friday.
Autry is the only player ruled out for Sunday’s games, as the close contacts to him were deemed not high-risk. The Colts also didn’t have a single player injured enough to be ruled out following the three days of practice.
From an injury standpoint, this is the healthiest the Colts’ active roster has been all season.
Unlike some other teams around the league, the Colts have done a nice job with their close contact situations in 2020. A player qualifies as a ‘close contact’ for being exposed to another player by being within 6 feet of that person for longer than 10 minutes.
“We are working really hard at it,” Frank Reich said on Friday. “We are looking at the close contact information all the time to try and learn where the hot spots are so to speak or what do we need to do. That’s why we’ve adjusted things as we’ve gone along. Really at the end of the day, what it comes down to, is players being pros, and our guys have been doing that. I’m not going to promise that it’s going to be this clean every time something comes up, but so far we’ve been very fortunate that our players have done a good job and as soon as a case pops up, we do the close contacts and they’ve all been deemed not high risk. That’s been a good thing.”
While the Colts will only be without one player due to injury/illness for Sunday’s game with the Packers, they will not have special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone due to COVID.
Ventrone has missed practice time this week due to COVID, so assistant special teams coach Frank Ross will lead that unit on Sunday, and director of player engagement David Thornton (who played in the NFL from 2002-10) will assist that phase.
Speaking of COVID, the NFL announced this week that all teams must implement intensive COVID protocols at team facilities starting for next week’s games, and through the remainder of the season (with the holidays and rise in national numbers leading to this).
“The biggest inconvenience or the adjustment for the players is out at practice. They all have to wear a mask, a shield on their facemask. They are getting used to that. That’s fine. But the intensive protocol means that when you are not in (for a play at practice), when your helmet is off, then you need to be physically distant or wearing a mask. That takes a second to get used to.”
The Colts will continue to have meetings in-person, with players properly spaced out and wearing masks. The Colts have been using their indoor facility and pavilion areas for additional space to hold meetings.
What else did we learn from the Colts on Friday?
- Defensive linemen Tyquan Lewis, Al-Quadin Muhammad and Grover Stewart all missed Thursday’s practice for precautionary reasons with Autry (illness) OUT. Those guys are all good to go for Sunday after the Colts and NFL looked into their contact situations with Autry.
- So with Autry out, the Colts will have some adjusting to do along their defensive line. Autry is one of the team’s most versatile defensive lineman and has played the second most defensive line snaps this season (393, with DeForest Bucker leading at 456. Without Autry, the Colts will likely use Tyquan Lewis on early downs opposite Justin Houston at defensive end (with Buckner and Grover Stewart at defensive tackle). On passing downs—with Autry leading the Colts in sacks at 6.0—the Colts could keep Lewis on the field and slide him inside to play alongside Buckner, and then have Houston and Kemoko Turay (see more below) account for the rush group. The likes of Taylor Stallworth (interior) and Al-Quadin Muhammad (outside) will provide rotational help. We will see if Ban Banogu dresses after being a healthy scratch the last two weeks.
- It’s looking more and more like DE-Kemoko Turay (ankle) could make his 2020 season debut this weekend. Officially, he’s listed as questionable. He practiced on Wednesday and Thursday, before sitting out Friday’s final session of the week. The 13 and a half month recovery for Turay has taken a tad longer than Frank Reich thought, with COVID certainly impacting some of that. When healthy, Turay gives the Colts a different speed edge rusher than they’ve had this season. That of course comes in huge this week, if he can give it a go, in facing Aaron Rodgers on Sunday. Turay has been working a lot with Robert Mathis, with the focus there on ‘sense of urgency, technique and get off,’ said the young pass rusher. If Turay plays, expect him to be used as a situational pass rusher on Sunday.
- Kenny Moore will not miss any game action with his ribs injury. Moore practiced fully on Thursday and Friday and is good to go against the Packers. After what we saw from the Colts without Moore late last season, his presence against Aaron Rodgers is massive. Fellow defensive back Khari Willis was also dealing with a ribs injury this week, but he’s good for Sunday, too.
- As long as Jack Doyle (concussion) gets cleared by an independent neurologist on Saturday, he should have a chance for Sunday’s matchup with the Packers. Doyle practiced FULL on Thursday and Friday and is listed as questionable.
- After playing the most defensive snaps of any Colts player in 2019, the Colts have scaled back the role for Rock Ya-Sin a bit this season. Ya-Sin does not play in the base defense (those cornerback snaps go to Xavier Rhodes and Kenny Moore). In the last two games Ya-Sin has 50 and 68 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. With the injury situation to Moore, it’s quite possible Ya-Sin might play every snap against the Packers, or at least see a major uptick in his time. Will we see a bounce back game from Ya-Sin after he struggled a bit against the Titans?
- As the Colts get ready for their toughest challenge of the season, will they draw off last year’s blueprint against the Chiefs? In that 19-13 win over Kansas City, the Colts got the game at a pace they wanted—controlling the clock by having the ball nearly 15 minutes more than the Chiefs, running it 45 times and hitting Patrick Mahomes 8 times.
- The road resume for Aaron Rodgers this season is pretty darn good. In 5 games on the road, Rodgers has thrown for at least 280 yards, 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions in 4 of those 5 games: Vikings-364 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs, 127.5 rating; Saints-283 yards, 3 TDS, 0 INTs, 124.9 rating; Bucs-160 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs, 35.4 rating; Texans-283 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs, 132.2 rating (Texans); 49ers-305 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs, 147.2 rating.
- Here’s a look at the Colts (6-3) and Titans (6-3) schedules to close out the season: Colts: Packers (7-2), Titans (6-3), at Texans (2-7), at Raiders (6-3), Texans (2-7), at Steelers (9-0), Jaguars (1-8); Titans: at Ravens (6-3), at Colts (6-3), Browns (6-3), at Jaguars (1-8), Lions (4-5), at Packers (7-2), at Texans (2-7). The remaining opponents for the Colts have a .524 winning percentage. The remaining opponents for the Titans have a .508 winning percentage. On paper, the Colts have a great opportunity this weekend with a home game, versus the Titans playing a pissed off Ravens team on the road, which could give the Colts a full-game lead heading into the pivotal rematch next Sunday, with the chance to also sweep the season series.
- For the first time in NFL history, one conference has at least 9 teams with at least 6 wins at this point of the season. The AFC standings is as followed: 1. Steelers (9-0) 2. Chiefs (8-1) 3. Bills (7-3) 4. Colts (6-3) 5. Raiders (6-3) 6. Dolphins (6-3) 7. Ravens (6-3) 8. Browns (6-3) 9. Titans (6-3). How much attention is Frank Reich paying to that? “It would be disingenuous to say that you don’t look at the standings and see how crowded it is up there in the AFC and see what’s going on,” Reich said earlier this week. “I just can’t allow that, and we just can’t allow that to dictate us or get you in a certain kind of mindset. I don’t think there is any productivity to playing that game as far as looking at the schedule, who plays who, trying to project out – that’s all a waste of emotional energy. Now it’s great if you’re a fan. It’s great if you’re in the media. I’d be spending all my time doing that if I was in your position. That’s the fun part of it, right? That’s a blast. I can just tell you from a coaching and a playing perspective, it has zero productivity to it. All that matters is the Green Bay Packers and we have to win the next game.”
- The Colts will have a walk-through on Saturday morning before taking on the Packers at 4:25 PM this Sunday, with 12,500 capacity allowed inside of Lucas Oil Stadium.
Final Injury Report
-OUT: DL-Denico Autry (illness)
Bowen Analysis: Autry technically is off the active roster (for now) after the Colts placed him on the COVID-19/reserve list on Friday.
-QUESTIONABLE: OT-Braden Smith (thumb), DE-Kemoko Turay (ankle), TE-Jack Doyle (concussion), CB-Isaiah Rodgers (knee), TE-Noah Togiai (knee),
Bowen Analysis: Reich said Smith should be good to go after getting hurt at Thursday’s practice. The right tackle didn’t practice on Friday. Rodgers was a new addition and did not practice on Friday. Togiai missed the final two practices of the week.
The following players were on the injury report this week and have since been removed: DL-Tyquan Lewis (not injury related), DE-Al-Quadin Muhammad (not injury related), DT-Grover Stewart (not injury related), TE-Trey Burton (rest), DE-Justin Houston (rest), S-Khari Willis (ribs), S-Julian Blackmon (pelvis, knee), CB-Kenny Moore (ribs).