It has become a familiar story for this year's version of the Indianapolis Colts. Star running back Jonathan Taylor is out with an injury and his backup, Zack Moss, who doesn't play like a backup, steps in.
It's a reality no one in Indianapolis wants, but a reality Moss is more than ready for. And his past performance proves it. The fourth-year back was asked if he should be considered the No. 2 RB anymore.
"I mean… If you ask me, I think I'm pretty damn good," Moss said laughing in a phone call with NFL.com. "I got a lot of good guys in front of me, the O-line has done a great job. But having the opportunity to be the main guy and trying to put it all together, that's what I was able to do in the beginning of the season. Got to duplicate that and continue to stack these wins."
On Wednesday, hand specialist Dr. Steven Shin of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles operated on Taylor, repairing the torn UCL in his thumb. Despite playing the second half of last week's win over the Bucs with the injury, surgery was the only answer and not a choice, sources say.
Here's why: The ligament tore off the base of the thumb and flipped on top of the tendon, sources say. Once that happens, the only way to avoid a loose tendon in the future is to have surgery to tuck the ligament back under the tendon so it can function. Immediate surgery was a necessity.
Shin used an internal brace on the ligament, sources say, the same as he did to Drew Brees for a similar injury in 2019. Thanks to the internal brace, what would be a recovery taking many months will be shorter.
Sources say Taylor's recovery time is three to five weeks. Indy left the door open for him to return before four weeks by not placing him on injured reserve, and Taylor was already back with the team the day after surgery.
But for at least the next three weeks, it's Moss' time to shine.
"You never want to see anyone on the team get hurt, obviously in your own room," Moss said, "especially a player the caliber of JT and what he means to the team. I was sad for him to have to deal with another surgery after coming back and getting into the groove. That sucked to see. But you have to shift your mindset and know the team is going to look to you a little more. Figure out the best way to help the team win this game."
After a week of preparation for today's game against the Tennessee Titans, Moss spoke with the confidence of someone who has been there. And he has. With Taylor on the physically unable to perform list to start the season, Moss impressed in his first four games of action after recovering from a broken arm he suffered early in training camp.
During his season debut in Week 2, Moss produced 88 rushing yards and a touchdown in a win over the Houston Texans. He eclipsed 100 rushing yards twice in his first four starts, including a breakout 165-yard performance against the Titans, who he faces again today.
A third-round pick by the Bills in 2020, Moss struggled to find his footing in Buffalo. He would eventually get traded to Indy last season and began contributing late in the year.
"When I got drafted to Buffalo, it wasn't great for me or my style of play," Moss said. "You're only getting like 6 to 10 carries a game and could never really get into a rhythm. I love the guys there, still am close with them, love the coaching staff. But I always knew what I was capable of, just needed the opportunity."
This year has reinvigorated the career of the free agent-to-be, giving Moss a chance to be a star. He wants more.
"The doors opened and I never felt any pressure in tense moments," Moss said. "I always knew if I got the ball, I'm going to make something happen. It's been more of an eye-opener for people watching versus myself, because I always knew what I could do."