Deon Cain

Colts rookie wide receiver Deon Cain catches a pass Thursday during training camp at Grand Park last July.

INDIANAPOLIS — Fans skeptical of the hype surrounding Deon Cain have an unlikely ally.

The second-year Indianapolis Colts wide receiver agrees he hasn't accomplished anything yet as a pro.

“I still got that chip on my shoulder,” Cain told reporters this week at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. “I haven’t even let go cause I feel like everyone just (created) hype off of practice. Everybody knows I’m more of a gamer. That’s just totally me. Practice, you’re supposed to do that and in the game, you just go out there and have fun.”

Cain's knee injury was one of many early season setbacks for a team that started 1-5 before rallying to win nine of its final 10 regular-season contests and a wild-card playoff game.

After being drafted in the sixth round, he appeared to be on track to win the team's No. 2 wideout job in training camp. At 6-foot-2 and 202 pounds, he particularly shined in the red zone where he could use his size and athleticism to win battles for 50-50 balls.

But Cain's hype train derailed before the season started.

He tore his anterior cruciate ligament coming out of a cut during the preseason opener at the Seattle Seahawks. Cain believes he over stepped and landed just the wrong way. He called it a freak accident, and he already feels like he's getting closer to his old form.

Cain isn't practicing with his teammates, but he's running routes and working on his conditioning with trainers behind the scenes.

Those sessions — along with some lengthy conversations with safety Malik Hooker, who came back from a similar injury a year ago — have helped the 22-year-old regain confidence in his knee.

The general rule of thumb following a major knee injury is an athlete needs 12 to 16 months to regain full strength in the joint. It often takes even longer than that for the on-field performance to return to previous levels.

That's why the Colts aren't banking on a major contribution from Cain in 2019.

Anything he's able to provide will be a bonus for a passing game that finished sixth in yards (4,461) and second in touchdowns (39) last season.

Cain's expectations for himself are much greater.

“I know I’ve still got the same capabilities, just from what I’ve been doing with my trainers and all that stuff,” he said. “So I feel like I’m still there. Just want to get back into that football flow and just come back in being the same guy.”

He's part of one of the most intriguing position groups on the roster.

T.Y. Hilton, free-agent addition Devin Funchess and second-round pick Parris Campbell are heavy favorites to make the team.

Cain heads a list of ascending players battling for the final two — or three — spots that includes Chester Rogers, Zach Pascal, Marcus Johnson and fellow 2018 draft pick Reece Fountain.

Cain remains well-respected within the organization.

“I think you guys know we were very excited about what Deon showed (last summer),” head coach Frank Reich said, “how quickly he picked things up and the playmaking ability that he showed.”

Cain said no player on the roster is looking forward to the preseason opener Aug. 8 against the Buffalo Bills more than him.

He's tired of being known for plays he made on the practice field.

It's time to show what he can do when the bullets are live.

“That’s what I’m supposed to do (dominate practice),” Cain said. “That’s just really how it’s supposed to go. I’m actually ready for the game. So that’s how I know I can really get jiggy.”

THB sports editor George Bremer has covered the Indianapolis Colts since 2010. He occasionally sports a beard that can rival Andrew Luck's, but he lacks arm strength and durability.