Fi­nally healthy, Cain catch­ing on with Colts

Year af­ter in­jury WR turns heads in train­ing camp

Baltimore Sun - - SCOREBOARD - By Michael Marot

WEST­FIELD, Ind. — Colts re­ceiver Deon Cain waited a life­time to show he could play in the NFL.

One in­nocu­ous cut on a rou­tine route in last year’s pre­sea­son opener put his dream on hold.

Now, 12 months later, the for­mer Clem­son stand­out looks as good as new. He’s still turn­ing heads with his play­mak­ing abil­ity, still com­pet­ing for a top-three spot on the depth chart and leav­ing an indelible impression on the locker room af­ter re­turn­ing from a torn lig­a­ment in his left knee.

“Early on, he was about what I ex­pected. Now he’s ex­ceed­ing my ex­pec­ta­tions,” of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Nick Siri­anni said af­ter watch­ing Cain in an­other daz­zling train­ing camp prac­tice. “No­body knows his body like him, but I do see that con­fi­dence (in the knee) com­ing.”

Con­fi­dence never has been a prob­lem for Cain.

The high school quar­ter­back changed po­si­tions af­ter com­plain­ing to an all­star camp coach the receivers were too timid.

He spent his first two col­lege sea­sons fight­ing with Mike Williams and Ar­tavis Scott to catch De­shaun Wat­son’s eyes be­fore a break­out ju­nior sea­son put him on the radar of pro scouts.

Colts gen­eral man­ager Chris Bal­lard con­sid­ered Cain tal­ented enough to over­look a failed drug test in 2015, which led to his sus­pen­sion for the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off, and an­other sus­pen­sion that kept him out of spring prac­tice. Bal­lard drafted Cain in the sixth round, No. 185 over­all. Cain re­turned to his home state of Florida last sum­mer to work out with Hall of Famer Randy Moss.

He made an im­me­di­ate im­pact — un­til he fell to the ground in Seat­tle.

“One of the traits Deon was flash­ing was an abil­ity to re­ally win against press cov­er­age and that’s re­ally an at­tribute at this level,” coach Frank Re­ich said af­ter an­nounc­ing the in­jury. “But we know we’ve got some­thing spe­cial. He’s a good guy who can be­come a great player.”

The rookie who ap­peared to be po­si­tioned as the No. 2 or No. 3 re­ceiver in the Colts’ ro­ta­tion spent the rest of last sea­son in re­hab with the first ma­jor in­jury of his ca­reer. The Colts also kept him out of off­sea­son work­outs and fig­ured Cain wouldn’t re­gain form un­til mid­sea­son.

But af­ter work­ing out again with Moss in the sum­mer, Cain ar­rived at train­ing camp with­out a knee brace or a worry.

“I’m re­ally feel­ing good, but I’m try­ing to stick to the rou­tine — a few days of prac­tice, a few days of main­te­nance,” he said.

So far, Cain has aced each suc­ces­sive test.

He got up quickly af­ter his knees hit the ground hard enough to send dirt fly­ing dur­ing the first week of camp. In Thurs­day’s loss to the Bills, he caught two passes, took a cou­ple of hits and then dropped a pass he thought should have gone for a touch­down. On Satur­day, he caught a hand­ful of long balls at prac­tice, demon­strat­ing the skill, poise, body con­trol and at­ti­tude Moss helped teach.

“He told me ‘When­ever the ball is in the air, it’s your ball so go get it,’ ” Cain said.

The dif­fer­ence this year is Cain faces a much tougher bat­tle.

With four- time Pro Bowler T.Y. Hil­ton en­trenched in the No. 1 spot and free agent Devin Funchess ex­pected to be the sec­ond starter, es­tab­lished vet­eran Ch­ester Rogers is try­ing to hold off Cain and Dau­rice Foun­tain — an­other sec­ond-year player who has played well in camp — for the No. 3 job.

Rookie Par­ris Camp­bell, a third-round pick, al­ready has missed the last week with a ham­string in­jury and is ex­pected to miss more time af­ter Re­ich said Mon­day that Camp­bell had a set­back in his re­cov­ery.

The Colts also like Zach Pas­cal and Mar­cus John­son, who both fin­ished last sea­son with the team, and there’s not enough room on a 53-man ros­ter to keep all eight.

Cain and his com­peti­tors will have an­other chance to show what they can do Wed­nes­day and Thurs­day in joint prac­tices with the Browns, and Cain doesn’t in­tend to make it any eas­ier on them than he has on his team­mates or coaches.

“I know ev­ery­one wants to make this ros­ter as much as me,” Cain said. “It’s been a dream of mind to play in the NFL, so I’ve just got to fo­cus on do­ing my job be­cause I’ve never been around so much tal­ent.”


Re­ceiver Deon Cain missed his rookie sea­son last year af­ter suf­fer­ing a knee in­jury dur­ing the Colts’ 2018 pre­sea­son opener. He’s cur­rently in a crowded bat­tle for a ros­ter spot.

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