Colts tight end Jack Doyle returns to practice, could play Sunday

Sixth-year pro hasn't played since Week 2 due to hip injury, so being back for team workouts is first positive step.

INDIANAPOLIS — Jack Doyle can smile again, just because he’s back on the practice field and could play Sunday at Oakland.

The Indianapolis Colts tight end and hometown fan favorite hasn’t suited up since injuring his hip in a Week 2 win at Washington. Doyle, 28, concedes it’s been difficult sitting out.

Can anything compare to the challenge of enduring his longest injury absence in six NFL seasons?

“I’ve got a 2-year-old,” he said with a smile on Wednesday, “so that might be pretty close.

“But, yeah, it’s been tough. But it’s part of it. Everyone goes through it at some point in their career for the most part. I’m just trying to take it one day at a time.”

Doyle is coming off a career year in earning his first Pro Bowl honor with a team-high 80 receptions for 690 yards and four TDs. He didn’t think the injury was serious when it happened on a two-minute drill late in the second quarter. Doyle was so into the game with the adrenaline pumping, he kept playing.

Since then, he’s spent his days in the training room and going to meetings to stay connected to his team, which snapped a four-game losing streak with a home win against Buffalo on Sunday to improve to 2-5.

First-year head coach Frank Reich said last week that he could tell Doyle was anxious to return. A week later, the coach kept the door open on his tight end playing on Sunday against the Raiders (1-5).

“I think there’s a chance that he plays,” Reich said.

Doyle defers on that decision to coaches and trainers. After missing so much time, he’s not about to get too ahead of himself.

“I’m just leaving that up to them,” he said. “We’ll see how it progresses through the week. I’m just excited to be out there today and I’m taking it one day at a time.”

Colts tight ends have more than picked up the slack in his absence. Eric Ebron leads all NFL tight ends with six TD receptions and Erik Swoope has caught a scoring pass in three consecutive games. Even Mo Alie-Cox has stepped in and caught a pass in three straight games for a combined 58 yards.

Doyle is one of the team’s more popular players, in the locker room and locally because he’s an Indianapolis native. Once undrafted and just looking for a chance, he was claimed by the Colts as a rookie off waivers from Tennessee and gradually worked his way into the lineup.

He’s been one of the Colts’ most reliable pass catchers, especially in short-yardage situations to gain first downs. Doyle has 174 receptions for 1,483 yards and 12 TDs.

“I’m just excited to have an opportunity to practice today,” he said.