INDIANAPOLIS — T.Y. Hilton hasn’t been himself so far in 2020.
The Indianapolis Colts star wide receiver has three drops through the first two games, including what would have been a 44-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter last week against the Minnesota Vikings. Hilton admits he lost that ball in the sun shining through the roof of Lucas Oil Stadium but said it doesn’t take him off the hook.
“It’s a drop,” he said Thursday during a Zoom call with local media. “It is what it is.”
That was just the second time he’s dropped an end zone target in 67 career opportunities according to ESPN Stats & Information — a stat that gives tangible evidence to the feeling something just isn’t right with the 30-year-old wideout.
A Monday night phone call might have inspired the change Hilton desires.
It came from his grandmother, and it carried with it some old-fashioned tough love.
“She’s just always keeping it 100 with me,” Hilton said. “She always shoots it straight with me and just lets me know what’s up. She’s my rock. She’s my heart, and she called me and told me that the person she was seeing on TV wasn’t her grandbaby. That wasn’t me.
“So it hurt me for her to tell me that. But she’s always kept it real, and she said, ‘You look frustrated.’ And that’s not the way I play this game. I’m always happy, always excited. So I’m back to being me. I’m good.”
The Colts are counting on it.
Head coach Frank Reich said earlier this week Hilton is the last player on the roster he worries about, and the veteran likely will need to make some plays in coming weeks to help ease the burden of losing speed merchant Parris Campbell.
A second-round pick in 2019, Campbell injured his knee on the second snap against Minnesota and was placed on injured reserve this week. He’ll miss at least the next three weeks, and Indianapolis will miss his unique skill set.
“It will be by committee,” Reich said of filling Campbell’s role. “We do that anyway. Obviously, Parris was mainly playing the slot. We’ll just move guys around and make the fit right for every play that we can and have confidence in the guys that will step in there.”
Hilton figures to be one of those guys.
He’s done some of his greatest damage from the slot, where he can often exploit mismatches against linebackers and safeties with his speed and agility. It’s a role he welcomes with open arms.
“If they need me to go inside, I can go inside easy,” Hilton said. “I’ve been doing that my whole life. So it’s easy for me. Just guys gotta step up to the plate.”
And Hilton needs to get back to his roots.
He studies the tape after every game — good or bad — and looks for areas of improvement.
Hilton said he’s not worried about his hands. He spends extra time before, during and after practice perfecting his craft, and he’s 100% confident he can reverse the sudden flare-up of drops.
He also believes there was a deeper cause for his early struggles, and the call with grandma set everything back on track.
“I’m normally patient, normally just go out there and do me,” Hilton said. “But I don’t know what it is, don’t now what it was. I think I was just trying to prove something that I didn’t need to prove. So now I’m back to being me, back to having fun. So you’ll see a more excited person out there on Sunday, and (I’m) looking forward to it.”
Darius Leonard has a healthy respect for New York Jets running back Frank Gore, despite the fact the veteran’s last season in Indianapolis came the year before Leonard arrived.
Leonard played against Gore when the running back was with the Miami Dolphins, and he came away impressed.
“He reminds me a lot of Adrian Peterson,” Leonard said. “Seventeen years in the league, that’s when football was football where you’re gonna run between the tackles, man-on-man. It’s ‘I’m stronger than you, and my will’s better than yours.’ He still has that mentality, and I think that that’s what makes him who he is. Because when he gets between them tackles, you know he’s gonna lower his shoulder. He’s gonna try to run you over.
“And that’s what type of mentality you need playing at running back and not a lot of this other stuff you see at running back.”
Tight end Jack Doyle (knee) returned to practice Thursday on a limited basis after missing last week’s win against the Vikings. Rookie safety Julian Blackmon (knee) continues to be a limited participant.
Cornerback Rock Ya-Sin (illness) and linebacker Matthew Adams (ankle) did not practice.