By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
Austin Collie set career highs for receptions and yards in two of the Indianapolis Colts’ first three regular season games last year.
But it’s the two frightening concussions he sustained later in the season that likely stand out in most fans’ minds.
Collie, back on the field for training camp at Anderson University, is trying hard to push such thoughts out of his own brain.
“The more I dwell on it, the more I think about it, the more you guys bring it up, the more it’ll stay there in my mind,” he said. “And that’s the last thing I want when I’m going over the middle again.”
So far, Collie has looked like his old self.
There’s certainly nothing timid about the third-year budding star from Brigham Young University.
But questions are going to linger until he proves he can stay healthy for a full season.
Anyone who witnessed the plays on which Collie was knocked out last year easily understands.
On Nov. 7 in Philadelphia, Collie was squeezed between Eagles defensive backs Quintin Mikell and Kurt Coleman, who both made contact with his head. He lay on the field, motionless, for several moments. But he later returned to the sideline to the relief of teammates.
Two weeks later, he attempted to return against the New England Patriots. That plan was shut down during the first quarter when Collie again began experiencing concussion-like symptoms.
On Dec. 19, in a game that helped to decide the AFC South championship, Collie was injured again against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Linebacker Daryl Smith made contact to Collie’s helmet with his forearm, and the Colts receiver was knocked cold.
After that play, the Indianapolis brass had seen enough. And the Colts placed Collie on injured reserve, ending his season.
He told Sports Illustrated months ago that he won’t change the way he plays.
And he reportedly has been working with auto racing safety expert Bill Simpson to design a new football helmet. Collie could not confirm those reports Thursday.
“That is for him to comment on,” he said. “No comment.”
The helmet Collie has been wearing at Anderson University appears to have more padding in the back, and its shape seems slightly different than a regulation helmet.
In any event, there’s no questioning what a healthy Collie means to the Colts offense.
Even through all of his injuries, he managed to catch 58 passes for 649 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
He said he feels good, but he’s still catching up to speed after an extra long offseason.
“You think you know the offense, but even after six or seven months (off), it’s not the case,” he said. “You gotta kind of relearn everything again, and your mind’s racing. For the first couple of days, my mind was racing just trying to pick out the hots (reads) and picking out what the defense is, what the coverage is. But the more and more we get into it, the more it starts slowing down.”
As long as Collie isn’t slowed by injuries again, there appears to be no reason for the Colts to seek a big-name addition at wide receiver.
He insists he plans to be the same player he was before the vicious hits.
And he’s working hard toward that goal every practice.
“It’s been a little frustrating just because you don’t quite have the feel, yet,” he said. “But today was a little bit better, and I just look to improve on each day.”