Early on in training camp, the Colts were enamored with Parris Campbell, their second round pick at wide receiver. Campbell provided the kind of speed and play-making ability this team needs to get to the next level as an offense, and he did so from the jump.
While the scouting report on Campbell penciled him in as a “gadget player” and a “slot receiver,” Campbell’s performance in practice pretty quickly had his head coach singing his praises and saying there was far more to his game:
“The two plays he made in the red zone today weren’t hybrid, gadget slot receiver-type plays. They were legit NFL I’m-gonna-be-a-stud-receiver plays. Ran two phenomenal routes, made two big plays in the red zone. Everything we’ve seen so far has been a very positive sign.”
That was July 28th, the 4th day of training camp. It was also the last time we saw Parris Campbell in action. Since that time, he’s been sidelined with a hamstring injury that has lingered. While the rest of the team has been learning and growing, the rookie has been rehabbing his right leg and trying to get back in condition to get on the field.
Despite having great performances in OTAs and early camp, his protracted absence has left many questions about what impact Campbell may have for the team once the games count. He is a largely untested player and one whose use in college was far more limited than what the Colts would like to see out of him ultimately at the NFL level.
He is also very possibly the player Colts fans are most excited to see on the field who is not named Andrew Luck. Campbell has been an intriguing prospect since his selection, one that many felt was a perfect fit with Frank Reich and the Colts, and that perception was only made stronger by the Colts’ in-house series, “With the Next Pick,” which had Reich looking giddy at the selection of the speedy receiver out of Ohio State.
As the season looms ever closer and Campbell is still notably absent, that excitement has dampened a bit. Nearly a month removed from the initial injury, we still don’t know very much. Given the Colts’ approach to injuries this off-season it could be that the team simply won’t risk the speedy receiver’s health until he is fully recovered.
With players like T.Y. Hilton who are experienced veterans and can step right into the offense and produce, that is fine. Missing practice time for a player like Hilton didn’t hamper him down the stretch. His ankle issues held him out of almost every practice for the last two months of the season and into the playoffs.
For a rookie though, and one who is hoping to expand his role inside a dynamic offense, this missed time is a killer. If Campbell is even able to get healthy to start the regular season, he will do so having missed a month of critical time to develop inside the offense and get more comfortable with the system and the demands it has on him.
All of this of course assumes that Campbell is not more seriously injured than we know. Injury updates are vague at best during this time of the year, and we can only hope that his hamstring issue is one that will be resolved sooner rather than later. A lingering hamstring issue could certainly impact his speed, which would limit his effectiveness greatly.
From what we know about Frank Reich’s time table for Luck to start in week one, the Colts would probably like to see Campbell back in practice by next Monday in order to see him involved in week one. That means the clock is ticking. If he can’t return soon, it may be into the regular season before he gets to make his debut.