Carson Wentz to return to practice Monday; same with Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly

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Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz warms up during practice at the NFL team’s football training camp in Westfield, Ind., Thursday, July 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

WESTFIELD, Ind. – The uncertainty of the Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback situation might begin to clear when training camp resumes Monday.

Carson Wentz is expected to practice for the first time since undergoing surgery on his left foot Aug. 2. It will be on a limited basis, but nonetheless indicates his return should be on the front end of the initial 5-12 weeks rehab time.

The Colts’ season opener looms three weeks away: Sept. 12 against the Seattle Seahawks in Lucas Oil Stadium.

The critical issue, though, will be how Wentz’s foot reacts to the increased workload. The team is convinced the risk of re-injury is slim at this point of his rehab – the procedure involved removing a bone fragment – and the overriding issue will be Wentz’s tolerance for pain and possible swelling in the foot.

After a two-week period of allowing the foot to adequately heal from the surgery, Wentz began participating in the daily walkthroughs last week. Actually going through practice is the next step.

“He looks good,’’ Frank Reich said Sunday. “You’re going to see him out there on the practice field this week. He’ll be out there tomorrow taking some things. He’ll be limited, but he will be participating.’’

In Wentz’s absence, Jacob Eason and rookie Sam Ehlinger have been vying for the No. 2 spot, which could involve starting against the Seahawks if Wentz is unavailable.

Also, All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson and Pro Bowl center Ryan Kelly are expected to practice Monday at Grand Park Sports Campus.

Nelson required surgery Aug. 3 to repair an injury to his right foot while Kelly has been out since hyperextending his left elbow July 29.

The availability of Wentz has been the overriding issue as training camp has unfolded. That’s been exacerbated by the uneven performances of Eason and Ehlinger during practice and in the two preseason games against the Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings.

Saturday night against the Vikings, neither did anything to advance his cause.

“Watching the tape, it was pretty much what we thought – that both guys did some good things, made some plays, bounced back at times from some mistakes and showed some good stuff,’’ Reich said.

Ehlinger made his first NFL start and directed a pair of drives that resulted in field goals. However, he also suffered a pair of interceptions, running his preseason total to three. The first against the Vikings appeared to get tipped at the line of scrimmage and ultimately was returned for a touchdown while the second seemed to be a forced throw to Ashton Dulin that also was deflected.

Ehlinger was 8-of-13 for 70 yards with the two interceptions and a 36.2 rating. His two-game stat line: 18-of-28 (64.3%), 225 yards, three interceptions, no touchdowns, a 49.5 rating.

Eason started the opener against Carolina and played adequately – 15-of-21, 183 yards – but was unable to muster a suitable encore against the Vikings. He finished 16-of-27 for 132 yards, and frequently missed open receivers.

Eason’s two-game stat line: 31-of-48 (64.6%), 315 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions, an 83.3 rating.

Reich and his staff haven’t decided who’ll start in Friday’s preseason finale at Detroit, but it clearly will part of the evaluation process.

“Obviously this game will be a big game in it,’’ he said. “As I told you, we’re not making a decision, yet, but I don’t want to paint a picture like it all depends on who plays best in this one game.

“It’s the whole body of work. We’ll let it play out this week and we’ll factor it all in.’’

Asked if Eason or Ehlinger has established himself as the frontrunner at this point, Reich replied, “I think they’re both in the same ZIP Code.

“They have different styles of play, they have different strengths and weaknesses, but I think they’re both good players.’’

Wentz’s situation, though, demands serious attention. If his foot responds favorably over the next week or so, there’s every reason to believe he’ll be under center in week 1.

When Wentz began going through walkthroughs last week, Reich said he was getting “very antsy’’ to ramp up his rehab routine.

“He’s wanting to push the envelope, as I would expect, but he’s got to be patient and just stay focused on the mental side of it right now and we have to let things take their course.

“But at the same time, there’s a time to push things and we’ll keep doing that as it’s appropriate.’’

Barring a setback, there should be time for Wentz to get up to speed for the opener.

“In a perfect world,’’ Reich said last week, “we have a really good idea after that third preseason game and Carson would get to work two weeks going into the first game. That’s the perfect world.

“The next perfect world is he only gets the work of game week. I don’t know if that’s going to happen. It could be week 2, week 3. That’s still to be determined.’’

The team’s optimism probably is being reinforced by Wentz not suffering any setbacks in the early stages of his rehab.

Vaccination Check

Reich conceded the team’s overall vaccination rate has “leveled off a little bit,’’ but estimated the Colts are “75-ish percent’’ vaccinated the last time he checked.

“We’ll continue to try to encourage and educate our players and the organization on what we believe is the right thing,’’ he said.

Listen to the Colts Blue Zone Podcast for weekly coverage and analysis of the Indianapolis Colts.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

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