Long wait for bye week finally ends for Colts, Taylor

December 9, 2021 GMT
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Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor (28) run against the Houston Texans during an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
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Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor (28) run against the Houston Texans during an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Jonathan Taylor already feels as if he has played a full season.

The Indianapolis Colts running back has started 13 games, matching his rookie total. He has nine more touches than last year and his league-leading 18 touchdowns top his final numbers from 2020 and two of his three college seasons.

Naturally, Taylor needs a break. So he’ll spend this bye week relaxing, recharging and re-committing himself to finishing strong.

“A late bye week, it’s kind of a blessing and a curse,” he said after rushing for 143 yards and two more TDs in last Sunday’s 31-0 victory at Houston. “If you can make it to the late bye week feeling OK, then you’ve got an extra week to rest up and then you can hit that home stretch.”

The 22-year-old Taylor insists he feels fine despite the hefty workload for 13 consecutive weeks.

Yet there’s no indication the former Wisconsin star is slowing.

Last week, Taylor tied his career high with 32 carries. He enters Week 14 as the NFL’s only 1,000-yard rusher, holding a 370-yard lead over Cincinnati running back Joe Mixon in the chase for a rushing title. He has even recorded 100 yards from scrimmage and a rushing TD in nine of Indy’s last 10 games.

And just days after becoming the first Colts player to earn back-to-back AFC offensive player of the month awards, he opened December by posting Week 13 league highs in yards rushing and TD runs.

Now, finally, Taylor and his teammates will get some well-deserved rest.

“I think we’ll all enjoy it quite a bit,” quarterback Carson Wentz said. “Thirteen straight weeks without a break is a long time, so I think our bodies and our minds will definitely appreciate a little time off and a little time to spend with the family. We’ll be ready to go once we come back.”

Taylor will rely on his unique workout routine to make sure he’s running on all cylinders when the Colts return.

Before he was a second-round draft pick in 2020, Taylor improved his speed by competing in track. He developed a breathing technique to stay focused and did yoga twice a week to help with his flexibility while shortening his recovery time between games.

It’s a combination Taylor believes has helped him stay healthy.

“Just getting a lot of body work and getting your mind off of football until the last two days when you kind of reset and start getting back into that mode,” Taylor said when asked about his bye week plans. “But kind of completely unplug so you can refresh and be ready to go.”

The critics never expected Taylor’s career to take off like a shooting star. Instead, they pointed to Taylor’s 15 lost fumbles in college, a lack of experience in the passing game and the 926 carries he logged in three seasons with the Badgers as warning signs.

Colts general manager Chris Ballard saw something else — and he wasn’t alone.

“He is great in the screen game, but he can go out and run routes,” said Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians, who told ESPN.com he considered taking Taylor with the 13th overall pick. “He had a lot of David Johnson in him when we worked him out. He is a tremendous athlete. He is dangerous anywhere in space.”

Taylor is proving it on a weekly basis, too.

Over the past 17 games, he has rushed for 1,846 yards and 22 touchdowns, caught 45 passes for 375 yards and three more scores while losing just three fumbles in 545 career touches.

He’s on pace to become one of the youngest players in league history with 2,200 yards from scrimmage in a single season. And if he averages 163.0 yards per game when he returns from the bye, Taylor would be the youngest 2,000-yard rusher in NFL history.

But it’s not those numbers that matter to Taylor.

“You try to find a crack that he really thinks he is the reason (for our success),” Reich said. “But everything is about the team and that’s very, very special about him.”

An extra week of rest in December could help Taylor and the Colts, too.

Indy is one of nine AFC teams with six or seven wins, vying for the final three playoff spots. None of Indy’s final four opponents — New England, Arizona, Las Vegas or Jacksonville — are ranked among the top 15 run defenses.

And with winter weather coming and one of the league’s top offensive lines paving the way, the Colts are likely to ride a recharged Taylor as far as he carry them.

“The bye week is going to be love,” Taylor said. “How many games is this? 13? That’s like a whole college season plus the bowl game. So, the bye week will be definitely, definitely be love.”


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