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Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton celebrates after a catch against the Tennessee Titans on Oct. 31 at Lucas Oil Stadium.

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts’ high-scoring offense will get a boost Sunday with the return of veteran wide receiver T.Y. Hilton.

Even if it’s still unclear just how much the 31-year-old has left in the tank.

A neck injury sidelined Hilton for the first five weeks of the season, and he’s played just two games — leaving both early with injuries. It’s made for some extremely frustrating moments as the four-time Pro Bowler navigates a one-year contract and potentially his final NFL season.

“Mentally, it’s been very tough,” Hilton said Friday at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. “I want to be out there with my teammates, but I’ve had some unfortunate circumstances. I just continue to pray about it and know God don’t make mistakes. It wasn’t meant for me to play in those games. Whatever his plan is for me, is for me.

“So take nothing from it. Right now, I feel good. I feel fresh. I put that behind me and going on to the day and the next couple of days.”

There have been flashes where it seems the wide receiver has turned back the clock.

His 52-yard reception against the Houston Texans on Oct. 17 was his longest connection since 2018, and four of his six catches overall have gone for first downs.

But the injuries have piled up. He left the game against the Texans with a quad injury and suffered a concussion two weeks later against the Tennessee Titans.

On Sunday, he’ll square off against another AFC South opponent — the Jacksonville Jaguars — and perhaps add the speedy deep threat needed to complement emerging star receiver Michael Pittman Jr.

Hilton has obvious chemistry with quarterback Carson Wentz and is averaging 16 yards per reception in his limited action.

“I mean T.Y. is just a big-play maker all over the field,” Indianapolis head coach Frank Reich said. “He’s so smart, and he’s so instinctive. He just has a knack and a feel. Not only does he have the speed to get deep, but against zone coverages, and obviously this team (Jacksonville) plays a fair amount of zone, he just has a knack of finding the right spot. It will be good to have him back in the mix.”

The Colts have been firing on all cylinders recently, with or without Hilton in the lineup.

They’ve scored at least 30 points in four consecutive games and put up season highs with 45 points and 532 yards last week against the New York Jets. A healthy Hilton could make the offense even more dangerous, adding to a skill position corps that has seen running back Jonathan Taylor become a superstar and tight end Mo Alie-Cox enjoy a breakout season alongside Pittman.

With eight games left in the regular season, Hilton even has an outside chance at reaching a major milestone. He needs 544 receiving yards to reach 10,000 for his career and make Indianapolis the first franchise with three such players to hit that mark entirely in its uniform.

Not that Hilton’s mind is on long-term goals at this point. He’s just trying to finish a game for the first time in 2021 and perhaps help this team make a run at the postseason.

When the campaign comes to an end, he’ll make an assessment about his future — including a potential return for 2022.

“I don’t know. We’ll see, man,” Hilton said. “Right now, I’m feeling good. So, as long as I continue to want to play, I’ll be doing it. Right now, it is what it is. When we get to that point, we’ll go through the process.”


“I think we’ve done a good job in a lot of ways. Like in all three phases, we’re going to continue to get better. That’s really our mindset. I think (general manager) Chris (Ballard) told me the other day that the DVOA — I don’t look at that a whole lot, but I know it’s a legit thing in some ways — defensively we’re 11th right now or something like that. So I think that’s some indication that we’ve put a lot of good stuff out there on the field. We’ve obviously been stronger against the run than we have the pass, but we just need to continue getting better.” — Reich on the defense’s effort through the first nine weeks.


Cornerback Xavier Rhodes (calf) was the only player ruled out for Sunday’s game.

Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner is questionable after his back “locked up” during Thursday’s practice. He did not participate Friday, but the Colts are optimistic Buckner can recover over the next 48 hours.

“I mean, with a back, you never know.” Reich said. “I’m thinking he’s going to be OK, to be quite honest, but you never know, I suppose. We’ll just take it day-by-day.”

There’s also a chance cornerback T.J. Carrie could return from injured reserve and be activated for the game against the Jags. He’ll likely be on a snap count if that occurs, and it doesn’t sound like he’ll be an immediate answer for the void at safety.

“Yeah, he does have that (safety) versatility,” Reich said. “For right now, for us, he’s primarily corner first — outside — and he also plays nickel. We can move him around depending on the combination we want on the field. We can play him inside, Kenny (Moore II) outside, Kenny inside, him outside and then (in an) emergency, he can play safety. He’s such a smart, savvy player. That gives us good versatility.”

No players were ruled out for Jacksonville. Running back James Robinson (heel) is questionable.

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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.