Football

Colts’ Wentz off COVID list; vax thoughts ‘fluid’

INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz, who was one of three players activated off the reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday morning, said he has not shut the door on getting vaccinated.

Center Ryan Kelly and receiver Zach Pascal also were activated off the COVID list after the three players last week came into close contact with a Colts staff member who tested positive.

Wentz, Kelly and Pascal were placed on the list as close contacts because they are not vaccinated for the coronavirus. Vaccinated players go on the list only if they have a positive test result.

“It’s been a fluid process for me the whole time,” Wentz said about not being vaccinated. “As a family, we’ve been monitoring everything we can, letting it play out as long as we can. This is where we’re at today. Things can change in the next coming weeks. Who knows where this world is going. Who knows where these protocols are going. I’m not going to act like I’m an expert on a vaccine or a virus or anything.”

This was supposed to be a big week for Wentz, as he was expected to be a full participant in the team portion of practice for the first time since he injured his left foot on July 29. His goal is to play Week 1 after being out three weeks following foot surgery on Aug. 2. Instead, the quarterback had to remain away from the facility and take part in team meetings via Zoom from his home office.

Wentz took a significant portion of the first-team snaps in practice Thursday. The Colts will not practice again until Monday.

“This happening this week kind of woke us up on the protocol and understanding how this happened and understanding some of the gray areas with the league and making sure we know,” Wentz said. “We know what’s at stake and how to avoid it.”

Colts general manager Chris Ballard spoke passionately Wednesday about his belief in having his players vaccinated. The Colts have had one of the lowest percentages of vaccinated players by a team in the NFL.

“There’s consequences to not being vaccinated,” Ballard said Wednesday. “Do I think everybody should be vaccinated? Absolutely. I’m for the vaccine. [Coach] Frank [Reich] is for the vaccine. We have a lot of guys on our team who are for the vaccine. Is it 100% perfect? No. But it’s a good thing.

“It can help you from ending up in the hospital in a critical situation. And it helps stop some of the spread, and those are positive things. But for the guys who have chosen to not get vaccinated, they still understand they’re still part of this team. It’s their decision, but they’re still part of our team and they have to take care of the team.”

Wentz and linebacker Darius Leonard, who also is not vaccinated, said Ballard and Reich have been open and respectful to the players about the need to be vaccinated.

“They’ve been great,” Wentz said. “We’re all smart. Competitively, they want everybody to [get vaccinated], and I get it and I respect the heck out of those guys. They tell us the facts, they tell us their opinions. But there’s no pressure. It’s said in the right way. We know what’s at stake. We know as a team where we want to go, and we know some of these things can hinder if we let them and that’s why we have to do everything we can not to let it be a distraction and be on top of it with the protocol.”

Several Colts have shied away from saying why they have yet to get vaccinated, but All-Pro Leonard explained his reasoning for the first time after practice Thursday.

“I’m a down South guy, wanting to see more,” Leonard said. “Want to get educated about it. Have to think about it. Don’t want to rush into it. Want to see everything. I’m not pro-vax, I’m not anti-vax. I have to learn. When you don’t know a lot about something, you have to educate yourself about it.”

The Colts have been hit hard with players placed on the COVID-19 list since the start of training camp.

Guard Quenton Nelson, who had been in close contact with somebody who tested positive, was removed from the list Monday. Left tackle Eric Fisher, who is recovering from a torn Achilles, was placed on the COVID-19 list on Aug. 26. Cornerback T.J. Carrie, offensive lineman Julie’n Davenport, defensive lineman Al-Quadin Muhammad and cornerback Xavier Rhodes have also spent time on the list.

Reich and defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus also tested positive for COVID-19 at different points in training camp.

Besides Wentz, Kelly and Pascal returning, the Colts also placed quarterback Sam Ehlinger and receivers T.Y. Hilton and Dezmon Patmon on injured reserve Thursday, meaning they will miss at least the first three weeks of the season.

Ehlinger is expected to miss 5-6 weeks with a sprained knee, and Hilton aggravated a neck injury in practice last week. Patmon suffered a foot injury in the preseason finale vs. Detroit.

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