Vick Ballard to Injured Reserve with a torn ACL: What does it mean?

Unfortunate news from the Colts' facility as head coach Chuck Pagano confirmed that starting running back Vick Ballard would be placed on injured reserve with an ACL tear, ending his season. 

The injury occurred in a non-contact drill, as Ballard planted his foot and his knee popped. 

It's an awfully rough break for Ballard, who ran well during the Colts' 21-17 victory over the Raiders. Ballard was never projected to have a huge year running the ball, due to the offensive line's ineptitude, but his improved pass protection was a key part of the Colts' ability to both run and pass out of different personnel groups

Our hearts go out to the second-year back out of Mississippi State. ACL injuries don't quite represent the challenge they did in the past, and Ballard may yet be able to recover and still be an effective back in 2014 and beyond. 

But without Ballard, who projected to get at least 50% of the snaps at running back this season, where do the Colts' go? 

First off, nobody should be panicking. 

I've seen several fans, via comments elsewhere or Twitter, complaining about how the Colts are "screwed."

Well, no. 

There are 11 starters on offense. Of those 11, Ballard is the one most easily replaceable (outside of Mike McGlynn, who could be replaced by a suspicious-smelling piece of chicken at this point). 

That's not meant to be of any offense to Ballard, but he's marginally better than Bradshaw/Brown at best, and the Colts' offensive success was always going to be based around Luck. The Colts' running game was going to be dependent on the offensive line, not the individual running backs. 

An injury to any other starter (not counting Stanley Havili as a starter), or even a guy like T.Y. Hilton, would be far more harmful for 2013. 

That's not to say the injury isn't harmful. Football is all about depth, something that gets severely hurt by losing Ballard, who (ironically) was the one back on the Colts' roster without an extensive injury history. 

To take Ballard's spot for Sunday, the Colts will activate Kerwynn Williams, the team's 7th-round pick from the 2013 draft, off of the practice squad. Williams likely won't see much action on offense, however. The Colts may sign a veteran free agent sometime next week, but no current free agents are very tempting (recently-traded Delone Carter has a decent chance of coming back to Indianapolis, however, as he already knows the playbook).

Ahmad Bradshaw and Donald Brown will likely split carries for the rest of the season. A 60/40 split sounds reasonable to me, although we'll see what happens in that regard. Both backs are decent receivers out of the backfield and can pass block (Bradshaw is better in that regard, but Brown's reputation as a horrible pass-blocker is FAR from accurate), so the Colts shouldn't be giving up too much versatility with those two on the field. 

The best thing that could happen after this injury, however, is that the Colts don't try to continue to force the running game, and allow Andrew Luck to completely take the reins. I don't expect the Colts' philosophy to just change, as Hamilton won't abandon the run and Luck has bought into Hamilton's principles, but if the Colts turn slightly more pass-oriented because of the injury, I'll be a happy fan. 

Kyle J. Rodriguez

About Kyle J. Rodriguez

A film and numbers guru, Kyle writes about the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts for Bleacher Report, Draft Mecca and The Football Educator, and is a co-founder and associate editor of Colts Authority. Kyle also is a high school sports reporter for the MLive Media Group in Michigan, covering high school sports across the state.