Running back Vick Ballard was impressive enough in his 2012 rookie season with the Colts that he started 12 games, racking up 966 total yards. The following season, Ballard entered the year as the Colts' starter and he played well in the week one game against the Raiders, rushing for 63 yards while averaging 4.8 yards per carry. In practice the following week, however, Ballard tore his ACL and he hasn't returned to the game field since.
It looked like he might last year, as he was healthy by the time training camp began, having recovered from his torn ACL and ready to compete for a key role. Then on the second day of practice, Ballard unfortunately went down with another injury, this time a torn Achilles. Two years, two season-ending injuries.
He's back once again, as Ballard was once again on the field as training camp opened. Just a couple of days into practice, though, Ballard suffered a hamstring injury - one that was minor but still kept him out for a week as the Colts opted to take it easy with the running back. He returned to the practice field for the final two days of camp, but he didn't play in the team's preseason opener as, again, they're taking it slowly with him.
At some point, however, he needs to get back on the field. Vick Ballard is not guaranteed a spot on the roster, as other running backs like Boom Herron, Josh Robinson, Zurlon Tipton, Tyler Varga, and Abou Toure are all competing for a spot behind starter Frank Gore. If healthy, Ballard would be a very nice complimentary piece in the backfield who could help the Colts, but he needs to show it on the field first.
That's why, barring a setback, Vick Ballard will return to the playing field this Saturday in the second preseason game against the Chicago Bears, the first time since September 8, 2013 - a span of 814 days. Regardless of how he does performance-wise, it's a significant step for the back in his recovery.
"He's back out there," head coach Chuck Pagano said today. "So we have him on pitch count. He'll go today, he'll go tomorrow. Barring no setback, he'll get some on Saturday."
General manager Ryan Grigson noted how important it is for some of the injured players - like Ballard - to get some playing time in the preseason. When talking to the media yesterday, he said that, for those players, "It's tough. There is no other way to slice it. We have to be able to at some point be able to compare them to other people at their position group and the only way to do that is by playing football, by practicing and being out there and competing. It's a tough spot for any of these guys I think and I feel for them. I have been there before. It's no fun to not be out there. They also have to be 100 percent healthy, otherwise it makes no sense throwing them out there to get re-injured."
That's what the Colts are balancing: they've been taking things slowly with Ballard in order to make sure that he's back to 100%, but they also need to see him in game action so they can make an accurate judgement on the 53-man roster. Hopefully, everything will continue to progress and we'll be able to see Vick Ballard out there on Saturday, as that's currently the plan.