INDIANAPOLIS – Rigoberto Sanchez’s return apparently looms, and comes as something of a surprise to his position coach.
The Indianapolis Colts’ veteran punter has missed the last two games after undergoing surgery Dec. 1 to remove a cancerous tumor. Sanchez was in special teams meetings last week, but that’s been the extent of his return to the team.
“He’s going to be hopefully out there at some point this week,’’ special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone said Tuesday on a Zoom conference call. “We’ll see how that goes and just kinda play it by ear, take it day-by-day.’’
Even if Sanchez is back at practice and experiences no setbacks, there’s no guarantee he would handle the punting Sunday when the Colts entertain the Houston Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Did Ventrone anticipate Sanchez making such an expedited return to the practice field, if that’s the case?
“I would say no,’’ he said. “He’s only a couple of weeks out of surgery and all that, so not sure. I’ve never had to deal with anything like this in the past. I don’t think most of us have had to really handle any type of situation like this.
“Thankfully he’s recovered pretty well, I think, to this point and we’re just going to play it day-by-day and not rush anything back and just see how it goes.’’
When Sanchez revealed his cancer diagnosis Nov. 30 and underwent surgery the following day, it was clear the team held out hope he would be able to return at some point this season. It did not place him on the injured reserve list, which would have required Sanchez to miss three games.
“I don’t mind telling you, the prognosis is positive for Rigo,’’ coach Frank Reich said at the time. “So we’re hopeful, and we’re hopeful it’s not months.’’
Sanchez was back in the Farm Bureau Insurance Football Center last week and immediately was immersed in meetings.
“I’m excited,’’ Reich said. “He’s really making good progress. He is back in the building. He’s had a good week. Very optimistic and very happy for Rigo.
“Bubba was calling his name out in a special teams meeting . . . asking him a question about something, so just good to have him here.’’
Added Ventrone: “He’s been in the meetings this past week, so he’s up to par on everything we’ve been doing.’’
The team signed free agent Ryan Allen to step in for Sanchez, and Allen has averaged 46.0 yards on six punts the past two games.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.