If practice continues to go well, there’s a slight possibility that rookie nose tackle Josh Chapman could be suiting up for the Indianapolis Colts against the Miami Dolphins on Nov. 4. Or it may take another week after that before he is cleared to play.
Indianapolis interim coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians likes what he’s seen of Chapman — the Colts’ fifth-round draft pick in April — through the first three days of workouts, which began on Wednesday. But he’s taking and wait-and-see attitude as to when the defensive lineman will actually be able to play.
“I was really pleased with where he was,” Arians said Friday. “I was excited about Wednesday in pads especially. I think another good week [and he might be ready to play]. It’s a shame we can’t go out in pads every day or two days because we are so young and a lot of guys need it anyway.
“I think that rule [only one day a week in full pads] hurts young football teams trying to develop young linemen. It’s more for the Jeff Saturdays of the world who don’t need to go out in pads. But he is getting better.”
So, if Chapman has another strong week of work, might he be able to face the Dolphins?
“That might be pushing it. We’ll have to see him again [this coming] Wednesday in pads and make sure there’s no soreness,” Arians said.
The former Alabama standout has been sidelined since undergoing surgery Jan. 17 to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. The injury occurred Oct. 1, 2011, against the University of Florida.
Instead of sitting out the remainder of the season, Chapman opted to play out the year on one good leg. He still earned All-SEC and All-America honors for the eventual national champions, but his draft stock dipped because of concerns about his knee.
Indianapolis officials — namely general manager Ryan Grigson, coach Chuck Pagano and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky — liked what they saw on tape from Chapman’s last season in Tusacaloosa. With the Colts making the transition from a 4-3 defensive alignment with a hybrid 3-4 scheme, the team needed a true nose tackle who could be stout against the run.
Grigson, Pagano and Manusky received updated medical reports from Chapman’s doctors, including noted sports orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews. Andrews was the doctor who performed the procedure on Chapman’s knee. He sent out an email to all 32 National Football League teams regarding Chapman’s chances of recovery.
After doing some homework on their own, the Colts were satisfied that Chapman would be able to play at some point this season. And while he hadn’t practiced with the team until this week, hopes remain high that the 6-foot, 316-pound defensive lineman will be a major addition to the Indianapolis defense whenever he is cleared to play.
“He looks good right now. He’s strong, he’s physical, he’s got good feet and he can put pressure in the middle of the pocket,” Manusky said earlier this week. “From watching the [practice] tape, I’m happy as heck we got him when we got him. I think it’s beautiful. Now we’re going to try to build through him and the young guys that we get in the future.”
When the time comes that Chapman is given the green light to get into a game, the Hoover, Ala., native wants to prove any doubters wrong.
“I’ve been anxious since January, so I’m ready to get out there,” he said this week. “It’s been pretty hard. This is my first time ever really sitting down and watching people practice and play in the games. It makes me anxious. But at the same time, I know that I have to get healthy. This week with me practicing, I’m ready to get out there.”
With his physical stature, Chapman would seem to be a perfect fit as a nose tackle in a 3-4 defensive system.
“One thing I bring to the table is I love to stop the run. When people run the ball on the defense, my feel is that it’s hard on me because I’m the nose guard,” he added.
“Especially in this 3-4 defense, when you run the ball the nose guard kind of takes it on himself like ‘Man, what can I do better to keep my linebackers clean?’ That’s one thing I always preached to myself is ‘Keep my linebackers clean.’ That’s how I am.”
n Pagano continues treatments — Even though the Colts coach was released from the Indiana University Simon Cancer Center last weekend, he is still undergoing treatments for leukemia.
“Nothing surprises me [the way Pagano has battled the disease]. He’s always been a fighter. What he’s gone through, I can’t imagine. I know he feels so much better being out of the hospital, being at home and being in an environment that’s more comfortable. But he’s still got a long fight ahead,” Arians said.
“The second round [of chemotherapy] is coming and we’ll keep our fingers crossed. The [white blood-cell counts] look good. And he’s always been an upbeat, positive person ever since I’ve known him. His glass is always half full and we need to fill it to the top.”
Despite his hospitalization nearly three weeks ago, Pagano has remained in communication with his coaching staff and the Colts’ players.
“He wrote another letter to the team this week. It’s his football team. When he’s not feeling bad, he wants to be here. And he can’t be. It’s driving him crazy,” Arians said, adding that he doesn’t expect Pagano to make an appearance at the team’s headquarters or Lucas Oil Stadium for some time yet. “Not at least until the second round of chemo [is completed] because one infection could be it. He’s got to stay in as sterile an environment as he can stay in.”
n Injury update — Defensive tackle Fili Moala (knee) and cornerback Darius Butler (shoulder) have been ruled out of Sunday’s game with Tennessee.
The rest of the Colts’ injury list are considered to be game-time decisions. That includes outside linebacker Robert Mathis (knee), who practiced for the first time this week on Friday, and running back Donald Brown (knee). Brown and Mathis have missed the last two games.
Also on the injury list are offensive tackle Winston Justice (ankle), nose tackle Martin Tevasue (ankle), offensive guard Joe Reitz (knee), inside linebacker Pat Angerer (foot), defensive end Cory Redding (knee), nose tackle Antonio Johnson (illness), outside linebacker Dwight Freeney (ankle) and quarterback Andrew Luck (knee).
Justice, Redding, Freeney and Luck, though, are slated to start against the Titans. Mathis, Brown, Angerer, Tevasue, Johnson and Reitz will most likely be worked into the game on a rotation basis if cleared to play.