INDIANAPOLIS – Consider yourself warned.
T.Y. Hilton is feeling great and eager to recapture the form that made him one of the NFL’s most lethal wideouts.
“Last time I felt this good was probably when I led the league in receiving yards,’’ Hilton said Thursday on a Zoom conference call. “It’s been a minute, man.’’
Taking Hilton at his word, it’s been since 2016. That’s the year he piled up a career-high and NFL-best 1,448 yards. He joined Reggie Wayne (2007), Marvin Harrison (’02, ’99), Roger Carr (’76) and Raymond Berry (1959-60, ’57) as the only Colts to lead the league.
Hilton added a fifth 1,000-yard season in 2018 (1,270), but dealt with high- and low sprains to the same ankle over the final month of the season that basically kept him off the practice field. Last season, a quad injury kept him out of two games and a torn calf forced him to miss four more.
Hilton tweaked a hamstring during his offseason work and briefly started training camp on the league’s non-football injury list. But now he’s back, as healthy, confident and antsy as ever as the Colts open the season Sunday at Jacksonville.
“I’ve been excited since this whole week came,’’ he said. “Wasn’t able to sleep yesterday. Wasn’t able to sleep much today. Just excited, man. Just happy to be back out there with my teammates.
“Aw, man, as healthy as I’ve been this whole offseason. That’s the only thing I worry about, must being healthy cause a healthy 13 is a different 13. Banged up or not, they can’t stop me. So me healthy, still can’t stop me.’’
Even with the Colts transitioning from Jacoby Brissett to Philip Rivers and the addition of second-round pick Michael Pittman Jr., coordinator Nick Sirianni stressed the passing game still runs through Hilton.
“I expect a great bounce back from a year that he had a lot of injuries with,’’ he said. “I expect the 2018 version of him.
“He’s definitely still the main piece of this offense. He’s our guy. He’s our lead dog. He’s our alpha dog. If he stays healthy, the sky is the limit again for him.’’
The addition of Rivers should only boost that potential bounce-back season. Hilton has averaged 15.6 yards on 552 career receptions, and has averaged 30 yards on his 48 receiving TDs, including the postseason. He’s had 16 TDs that have covered at least 40 yards.
As if to show his support for his new QB1, Hilton wore a blue Philip Rivers shirt during his video conference call.
“It’s my guy, man,’’ he said. “I always have shirts on and this was Phil’s day.’’
Hilton, 30 and in his ninth season, is entering the final year of his contract. He had hoped for an extension, but that hasn’t materialized. Instead, the team funneled a two-year, $33 million extension for left tackle Anthony Castonzo and a four-year, $50 million extension for center Ryan Kelly.
“That’s dead,’’ Hilton said of an extension. “Whenever that happens, it happens. But right now that’s dead and I’m ready to rock and roll.’’
Collectively, Hilton believes he’s surrounded by one of his better supporting casts.
“You’re going to see a different team and it’s going to show Sunday,’’ he said. “I can’t wait. I can’t wait. I can’t wait.
“Tune in, it’s gonna be fun.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.