INDIANAPOLIS – The next step in Dayo Odeyingbo’s comeback from a torn Achilles came during Wednesday’s practice and was accompanied by restrained expectations from the player and his position coach.
The Indianapolis Colts’ second-round draft pick opened his rookie season on the physically unable to perform list as a result of a torn Achilles tendon suffered in late January. He was designated to return to practice Wednesday, which opened a 21-day window for the team to add him to the active roster or leave him on PUP.
In all likelihood, Odeyingbo will be given the opportunity to boost the Colts’ defensive front. But again, no one is overhyping his return. Yet.
The first practice was just the next phase of his rehab/return.
“I’ve been thinking about it since I got injured,’’ Odeyingbo said Thursday. “So I was really excited to get out there and it was great to finally get on the field and get some work in.
“I’m coming in with no expectations. Just trying to get better every day. I was finally happy to get out there yesterday and set a baseline and be able to grow from something.’’
Odeyingbo insisted he feels good and is getting to the point he no longer thinks about the Achilles injury.
“I don’t really think about it as much,’’ he said. “Sometimes it’ll feel kind of weird. Not bad, but just different than it used to be. You just have to get adjusted to playing on it, actually playing football and taking hits on it.
“It’s still different getting adjusted. One, just haven’t played football in almost a year and then obviously being in a new league and then playing coming off an injury. It’s just kind of some adjustments and knocking some rust off, but it felt good.’’
After investing his first-round pick in Michigan defensive end Kwity Paye, general manager Chris Ballard doubled-up by using his second-rounder on Odeyingbo, a 6-6, 286-pound defensive end out of Vanderbilt.
Ballard considered Odeyingbo a first-round talent, albeit one with an Achilles issue. In 44 games at Vanderbilt, he had 31 tackles for loss and 12 sacks.
But as much as the Colts envision Odeyingbo representing another pass-rush presence, position coach Brian Baker is keeping a restrained outlook.
“My expectations are tempered because he hasn’t had a helmet on since November,’’ he said. “He’s a rookie. And the tempo of where we are right now. The value of training camp is training. You have it for a reason. The OTAs and training camp are invaluable for a young guy.
“That’s why it’s tempered.’’
But Odeyingbo’s potential is obvious.
Listen to running back Jonathan Taylor.
“Guys aren’t really supposed to have that kind of size and move the way they move,’’ he said. “It was exciting to see him out there and see the smile on his face. You could tell he had a high motor. He was ready to roll.
“The guy’s special and all he’s got to do is keep working and hone in on his technique, becoming a savvy football player. As far as his size and how he’s built, you’ve just got to accept he’s special.’’
His physical skills aside, Odeyingbo immersed himself in learning every nuance of the defense during his rehab.
“The thing that gets me excited about him, number 1, he’s really, really intelligent,’’ Baker said. “A really sharp kid, very conscientious. He understands the details. Yesterday’s practice shows me that he’s been paying attention.
“Now it’s going to be a matter of how does he win his downs? How does he get his body mechanics together? His hips were a little high at times. The enthusiasm and exuberance was out there, but his body was over here. I am optimistic because of his intangibles.’’
Odeyingbo possesses the ability and versatility to play different positions on the line, particularly as an inside pass rusher in nickel situations. Initially, he’ll be allowed to progress at end.
“Here’s what I worry about: if expectations are too high or if the things you’re asking him to do are too much, he’s not going to have success,’’ Baker said. “It’s too much too soon.
“And when you don’t have success early, what are they recording? They’re recording failure. There’s going to be some of that. And they can learn from some of that. But if they’re overwhelmed, now you’ve got to get them out of a hole.’’
T.Y. Hilton’s status for Sunday night’s road test against the San Francisco 49ers remains uncertain. He made his first appearance of the season in last Sunday’s win over Houston following neck surgery in late August, but suffered a quadriceps injury.
Hilton didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday.
“I’m in a good spot,’’ he said. “I still have some stuff to do. We’ll see.’’
Does he anticipate playing Sunday?
“Just wait and see,’’ he said. “I’m 50-50 right now. Still early in the week, so we’ll see.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.