By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
A depleted Indianapolis Colts defense got some good news for a change Wednesday.
Defensive end Cory Redding returned to practice after missing last week’s win against the Cleveland Browns and vowed to play Sunday at the Tennessee Titans. Inside linebacker Pat Angerer increased his practice reps and likely will have a bigger workload this week after playing in his first game of the season against the Browns. And outside linebacker Robert Mathis continues to make slow progress toward a return from a knee injury that has kept him out for the past two weeks.
But the most tantalizing news involved a player fans have never seen suit up in a full Indianapolis uniform.
Rookie Josh Chapman, a fifth-round pick out of Alabama, put on the pads Wednesday afternoon and practiced with his teammates for the first time.
“It’s been pretty hard,” Chapman said of sitting out the first six games of the regular season and all of the preseason. “This is my first time ever really sitting down and watching people practice and playing the games. It’s been hard on me. It makes me anxious, but at the same time I know I have to get healthy. This week, with me practicing, I’m ready to get out there.”
Chapman tore the anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his left knee last October but continued playing for the Crimson Tide through their victory against LSU in the BCS National Championship Game in January.
The injury, and its rehabilitation, caused Chapman to slip from a projected second-round selection in last April’s draft. He expressed excitement about playing nose tackle in the Colts’ new 3-4 scheme on draft day but hadn’t been able to suit up for Indianapolis since.
At 6 feet and 316 pounds, Chapman lacks prototypical nose tackle size. But he has the right disposition for the role.
“It’s the dirtiest, nastiest job, but at the same time I love doing it,” he said.
And there are high hopes for Chapman’s potential.
The Colts have allowed 850 rushing yards, an average of 4.8 yards per carry and eight rushing touchdowns through six games this season. Chapman said his top priority is stopping the run, but interim head coach Bruce Arians believes the rookie has the tools to be a factor in the pass defense as well.
“He’s so strong, quick, powerful, he’s got every attribute you want in a nose guard,” Arians said. “Can move, he’s extremely quick and can move the center of the pocket. He’s a good pass rusher for a short guy.”
It might still be awhile before fans see Chapman on the field. Indianapolis has three weeks to either place him on the 53-man active roster or leave him on the non-football injury list for the duration of the season.
Arians said the team will think long and hard about that call.
“We want to take our time with him,” he said. “If he’s ready to play, we’ll play him because he’s a great talent and he’ll give us a boost in there.”
Chapman said the final hurdle is developing confidence in his reconstructed knee. Once that’s cleared, he feels like he’ll be the same disruptive force he’s always been.
The fact the Colts (3-3) are in a crowded AFC playoff chase only strengthens Chapman’s resolve to return.
“We have something special going on here,” he said. “It’s hard just watching. You want to get in there and get after it with those guys.”