Colts: T.Y. Hilton might be able to play Sunday after missing first 5 weeks of season

Joel A. Erickson
Indianapolis Star

INDIANAPOLIS —  The Colts might be getting the Ghost back this week.

Just in time to play his favorite team to haunt.

Indianapolis designated T.Y. Hilton to return from injured reserve Wednesday, and it sounds like there is a chance the veteran wide receiver will be available when the Colts play the Texans on Sunday.

“Certainly excited to have T.Y. back in the fold and out on the field,” Colts head coach Frank Reich said. “Obviously, that’s a big, emotional boost to the team, and then obviously it’s Houston week. Probably not a coincidence.”

Hilton has torched the Texans in his 10-year NFL career, racking up 98 catches for 1,732 yards and 11 touchdowns in 17 games against Houston.

The legend of Hilton against the Texans has reached such mythical status that the Colts new starting quarterback has already heard it a few times.

“Rumor has it he’s been pretty good in this rivalry over the years,” Carson Wentz said with a smile on Wednesday.

Hilton hasn’t had much time on the field with his new starting quarterback.

Shortly after the Colts got Wentz back from the foot surgery that cost him most of training camp, Hilton was forced to undergo surgery to remove pressure on a disc in his neck. Hilton has missed the first five weeks of the season.

Indianapolis has 21 days to activate Hilton to the 53-man roster, but Reich said there is a possibility that Hilton will be able to play on Sunday against the Texans after he practices this week.

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In his absence, second-year receiver Michael Pittman Jr. has blossomed into the team’s No. 1 target, hauling in team-leading 29 catches and 368 yards.

Pittman Jr. has had plenty of the usual help from Zach Pascal (18 catches, 204 yards) and a little from Parris Campbell (9 catches, 111 yards), but Hilton’s presence should instantly make defenses think twice about sending too much coverage Pittman’s way.

“I think it opens it up for everybody,’’ Reich said. “Everybody knows we like to spread it around. If T.Y.’s playing, everybody knows we’re going to try and get him the ball.”

Hilton’s veteran presence would also be crucial to a team that has slogged its way to an ugly 1-4 start.

The longest-tenured Colt on the roster, Hilton has been through a lot of ups and downs during his time in Indianapolis, and he’s grown into a natural leader as his career’s progressed.

“Everybody knows, we all know what kind of player he is on the field, but even more so in the locker room and as a leader,” Wentz said. “Guys rally around him.”

The Colts have been watching Hilton work for weeks now.

“I mean, T.Y.’s a dog,” defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said. “To see him be able to practice this week after the surgery that he’s had, it’s going to be fun to get the Ghost back out there.”

And even if Hilton’s conditioning might not be all the way back — he hasn’t played football in almost two months — the veteran receiver proved long ago that he can be productive when he’s playing at less than 100% physically.

Wentz could use a player with Hilton’s savvy, knack for knowing exactly where to sit in a zone and the ability he showed last season to make an impact in the red zone.

The quarterback hasn’t gotten a lot of work with the receiver so far. But a player with the intuition of Hilton is a quarterback’s dream.

“I’m hoping. I’m optimistic,” Wentz said. “Mentally he’s still dialed in. He’s a smart, savvy veteran. If he can go, I’m not worried about where he’s at mentally.’’

The only thing left is for Hilton to prove he’s ready to go.

Hilton experienced relief in his neck almost as soon as the surgery was over, and because of his position, he can get in a lot of conditioning without having to practice at full speed.

“We’ll evaluate it as we go, but I’ve watched him work out the last few days, know he’s hitting some of his normal high-speed T.Y. yardage,” Reich said. “We’ll check it out as we go.”

If Hilton’s ready, the Colts won’t be afraid to point him at the Texans secondary and let him go to work.