INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Eric Fisher’s life changed the moment he felt the pain in his left foot last January.
He watched the Super Bowl in agony, unable to protect Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes against Tampa Bay’s fierce pass rush. In March, he was released in a cost-cutting move by the only NFL team he’d ever played for, Kansas City.
Fisher spent the next two months as an unsigned free agent before the Indianapolis Colts called, and after nearly eight months of rehab from a ruptured Achilles tendon, he tested positive for COVID-19.
Last week, Fisher finally did limited work in practice and if all goes well this week, he could play Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams.
“I’ve been doing everything I can in my power to be available for this team,” he said before Wednesday’s workout. “I don’t think there’s any doubt in my mind the way I feel, especially with how things work around here, I definitely think I can return to the level of play, if not, take the next step in my career.”
The timing couldn’t be better.
Julie’n Davenport started in place of Fisher last weekend and new quarterback Carson Wentz found himself under heavy duress. He was sacked three times and hit a total of 10.
Wentz has acknowledged he could have solved some problems with better reads and calls. Coach Frank Reich also declined to blame Davenport, choosing instead to discuss the offensive line play as a whole.
But getting a two-time Pro Bowler and one-time Super Bowl champion and his 6-foot-7, 315-pound frame on the field would help, especially with last year’s top-ranked defense coming to Indy under these circumstances.
Right tackle Braden Smith hurt his foot in the season-opening loss. He didn’t practice Wednesday and his game-day status remains unclear.
All-Pro left guard Quenton Nelson, meanwhile, faces the most daunting challenge of his four-year career against three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald. Nelson also sat out Wednesday with foot and back injuries.
Wentz, for one, is eager to see exactly what Fisher can do on the field.
“I was in the training room with him, unfortunately, so I got to see how hard he was working, how bad he wanted to get out there as soon as he could,” he said. “So, we’re excited for him.”
Fisher is an ideal fit in Indianapolis.
He grew up in Michigan, briefly crossed paths with Antonio Brown at Central Michigan, and then stayed in the Midwest as the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2013 — Andy Reid’s first season in Kansas City.
So when Indy’s longtime left tackle, 32-year-old Anthony Castonzo, retired in January and general manager Chris Ballard didn’t find a suitable replacement in the draft, he called an old friend from his time with the Chiefs.
“It’s been a big change for him,” Ballard said when training camp opened. “When you’re in one spot for so long and now is really the first time he’s had to make a change -– change of city, he’s a new dad, all those changes. But physically he’s doing well. Eric is prideful, Eric doesn’t miss a lot.”
In fact, Fisher has only missed 11 regular-season games in eight seasons and at age 30 the Colts believe he can still play at a top level for years. If he does, the Colts could have some key cogs in place for the foreseeable future.
Wentz and center Ryan Kelly were both drafted in 2016, No. 2 and No. 18 overall, and are under contract through 2024. In July, Smith signed an extension that runs through 2025 and Nelson, the No. 6 overall pick in 2018, will be looking for a new deal after this season.
Indy’s top defensive players, All-Pros Deforest Buckner and Darius Leonard, also are locked up. Buckner’s contract runs through 2024, Leonard’s through 2026.
So if Fisher regains his Pro Bowl form, he just might stick around Indianapolis for awhile.
“I’m pretty happy with where I’m at, considering 30 years old going into Year 9,” he said. “I’ll leave my status and my role up to the coaches and training staff. I’m just doing my part to make sure I’m rehabbing as hard as I can, practicing as hard as I can, and just being ready when my number’s called.”
NOTES: Leonard also sat out Wednesday with an ankle injury. … Fisher, like defensive ends Kwity Paye (hamstring), Al-Quadin Muhammad (ankle) and Kemoko Turay (groin), was limited in practice.
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