INDIANAPOLIS – Andrew Luck came out of the preseason opener unscathed.
Some of his teammates weren’t as fortunate.
Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich announced Friday that promising rookie receiver Deon Cain suffered a season-ending knee injury and running backs Marlon Mack and Robert Turbin will be listed week to week after sustaining other injuries.
“Really unfortunate. Obviously, he was having a great camp,” Reich said during a conference call with reporters. “We’ll support him and he’ll come back stronger next year.”
All eyes, of course, were on Luck – who made his first game appearance in almost 600 days and looked like his old self.
He completed 6 of 9 passes for 64 yards, leading the Colts to field goals on their first two drives and even bounced up quickly after taking his first big hit on the surgically repaired right shoulder before leaving the game.
It was exactly what the Colts – and an anxious fan base – needed to see from the top overall pick in the 2012 draft.
“Hopefully it brought a smile to the whole city (of Indianapolis) and really the NFL,” Reich said. “I think what’s cool in this league is that guys root for each other and quarterbacks root for each other, so it’s really a boost for the league and for our team.”
But losing the other three players could alter the Colts’ preseason plans.
Cain, a sixth-round pick out of Clemson who slid down the draft board because of off-the-field questions, was playing so well at training camp he was moving up the depth chart and appeared to be in position to challenge for one of the top three jobs in the receiving rotation.
He spent the offseason working out with recently inducted Hall of Famer Randy Moss and consistently showed the coaches he was neither afraid of making catches in traffic nor using his 6-foot-2, 202-pound frame to win jump balls.
Reich wasn’t even sure when Cain tore his anterior cruciate ligament though he believed it came when Cain made a cut, trying to come back for the ball on a deep route.
“One of the traits Deon was flashing was an ability to really win against press coverage and that’s really an attribute at this level,” Reich said. “But we know we’ve got something special in Deon Cain. He’s a good guy who can become a great player.”
Losing Cain means the Colts are likely to stick with four-time Pro Bowler T.Y. Hilton, free agent acquisition Ryan Grant and veteran Chester Rogers as their top three receivers.
And, for now, Reich seems content filling the other jobs with other players already in camp such as veteran K.J. Brent, who has impressed, too.
But the more pressing concern is at running back, where the Colts are thin.
Indy plugged Mack into the starting job left by departed workhorse Frank Gore.
Mack played all of last season with a torn labrum in his shoulder and left in the first quarter Thursday with an injured hamstring.
Turbin, a short-yardage specialist who was projected to be the No. 2 back, left the Seattle game with an injured ankle. He already has been suspended for the first four regular-season games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancers.
Mack and Turbin are now listed week to week, leaving the Colts with just four other running backs on the roster – veteran Christine Michael, who missed all of last season with an injured knee, rookies Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins and veteran Josh Ferguson, who missed the game with a hamstring injury.
“That run at the end of the game (by Wilkins), that was a big-time run,” Reich said, referring to a third-down conversion that helped seal Indy’s victory. “It’s only a couple-yard run, but those are the kind of runs that win games.”
Notes: Reich said receiver James Wright also will be week to week with an injured knee. … Rookies Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard also impressed Reich. Nelson, the No. 6 overall pick and highest chosen guard in more than two decades, helped keep the pocket mostly clean for Luck and showed he could be an asset as a pulling guard, too. Reich said Leonard, a second-round pick, “flashed” on a couple of plays at linebacker, too. … The Colts return to training camp Saturday afternoon and will host the Baltimore Ravens for a joint practice late next week.
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