Count Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians as two of Donnie Avery’s biggest supporters.
The Colts’ wide receiver, who has struggled with knee issues the last two seasons after being the first receiver selected in the 2008 NFL draft, opened a lot of eyes in last Sunday’s 23-20 win over the Minnesota Vikings.
Avery hauled in nine passes for 111 yards in the victory, his first big performance since joining the team as an unrestricted free agent last March.
The 5-foot-11, 200-pound native of Alief, Texas, began his NFL career with the St. Louis Rams, catching 53 passes for 674 yards and three touchdowns in 15 games as a rookie. A standout at the University of Houston, he had been selected ahead of other receivers available in the 2008 draft, such as DeSean Jackson and Mario Manningham.
During his second year in the league, Avery started 16 games and had 47 receptions for 589 yards and five TDs. His knee problems began prior to the start of the 2010 season. He was placed on injured reserve after getting hurt in the third preseason game and forced to miss the rest of the year.
After undergoing surgery and attempting a comeback during training camp with the Rams last year, he was released prior to the start of the regular season.
A brief stay with the Tennessee Titans ended this past spring. But it appears that Avery, almost two years removed from major knee surgery, may finally have his career back on track.
“Since he’s got here, he’s been 100 mph. He’s completely healed. I’ve been around guys, coached guys that have come off of major knee surgeries. In Baltimore, I had a couple corners go down. It takes time. It takes more than a year,” Pagano said earlier this week.
“You may be back in a year. But [not] from a mental standpoint [as well as] confidence, running routes, driving, breaking. From a [defensive back’s] perspective or a wide out’s perspective, [Avery is] 100 percent. He’s looked that good in the offseason [organized team activities] into training camp and preseason. So I’m not surprised at all at the success he had last week.”
Neither is Arians, who views the speedy Avery — timed at 4.27 in the 40-yard dash during a pre-draft Pro Day while in college — as a potential big-play threat down field in the Indianapolis offense.
“I loved Donnie coming out [of college]. I had him rated as the highest receiver coming out of the draft that year. Sometimes hard luck hits a guy. Injuries. He’s not in the right system. But ever since he’s been here, his confidence has grown, his speed is back, he’s healthy,” the Colts’ assistant said.
“It hasn’t been a surprise to me. It might be a surprise to him. I think the sky is the limit for this guy. He’s still young. I think we’ve got a diamond.”
Arians thinks he’s close, as a player and with his speed, to where he was before the knee surgery.
“His speed is back. His strength is back. Everything about him,” he said. “I think his confidence level is building each week. So I’m just anxious to watch him grow.”
• Injury list — Wide receiver Austin Collie and right offensive tackle Winston Justice, both recovering from concussions, practiced Friday and will most likely be game-time decisions for Sunday’s game with Jacksonville.
Collie said after the workout that he continues to be day-to-day and will wait to hear what the team doctors have to say in terms of being cleared to play against the Jaguars. He has missed the first two games of the season after he was hurt in the Colts’ preseason game with Pittsburgh.
“Austin had a good week. He’ll be in [this] morning and the doctors will continue to monitor his progress,” Pagano said. “He’s put back-to-back good days in and has felt good coming into the next day. [He] practiced good ]Friday]. He’ll come in [this] morning and the docs will check him out and then we’ll go from there.”
Justice, meanwhile, was sidelined in the second half of the season opener with Chicago on Sept. 9. He has not played since.
“He had a great week and looks to be in great shape. He will come in [this] morning and see the doctors. He looks like he’s a go [for Sunday’s game],” the Colts’ coach said.
Center Samson Satele (knee) and offensive guard/center Mike McGlynn (knee) fully practiced Friday. Satele was hurt late in the second quarter of last Sunday’s game with Minnesota. McGlynn was shifted over from his regular spot and played center for the rest of the game. He saw light practice Thursday with a sore knee.
“They look to be in good shape. That’s a good sign and a good thing for us with those two guys,” Pagano said.
Defensive end Cory Redding saw limited work Wednesday and did not take part in practice Thursday because of a triceps injury. Redding, though, was able to practice Friday.
“Cory went [Friday] and got some work done. He’s still got some time. He’ll live in the training room with our guys and get treatment,” the Colts’ coach said.
Outside linebacker Dwight Freeney (ankle) is not expected to play. He has not practiced since he was hurt early in the first quarter of the Chicago game.
Offensive guard Joe Reitz (knee) and inside linebacker Pat Angerer (foot) have yet to play this season, but both are hoping to return in time for the Green Bay game Oct. 7. Reitz has been nursing a sore knee since the start of training camp. He tweaked the injury again prior to the start of the regular season.
“[Reitz] is still rehabbing. He’s day-to-day with his rehab. He’s doing well. He’s making progress. And we’re shooting for Green Bay,” Pagano said, confirming that the offensive lineman underwent surgery on the knee. “He had a minor procedure, a scope.”
Angerer also appears to be coming around in his rehab process. He was hurt in the Colts’ opening preseason game with St. Louis.
“[He’s] doing well. Same thing. Shooting for Green Bay with him. But he’s making great strides. They’re bringing those guys along. Again they’re living in the training room, both those guys, they’re night and day in there,” the first-year head coach said.
“They’ve spent time at practice with us and in meetings with us and things like that so they can stay up on the schematics of things and terminology. But they’re going a great job.”