INDIANAPOLIS — Trey Burton is going to make his Colts debut against the team that cut him loose.
Indianapolis activated Burton off of injured reserve on Saturday and placed wide receiver Michael Pittman on injured reserve after the rookie underwent surgery last week to relieve the pressure from compartment leg syndrome.
The Colts also activated veteran wide receiver Marcus Johnson from the practice squad, adding another body to help fill in for the losses of Pittman and Parris Campbell (PCL/MCL injury) the past two weeks. By placing Pittman on injured reserve, Indianapolis ensured the rookie will have to miss at least three games.
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Burton, who missed the first three weeks due to a strained calf suffered in the Colts’ final dress rehearsal at Lucas Oil Stadium at the end of August, practiced on both Wednesday and Thursday, then sat out Friday as Indianapolis tried to determine if the veteran tight end would be ready to go in Chicago.
“He did pretty well the last couple days,” Colts head coach Frank Reich said Friday. “We just thought physically it was the right thing for him to do.”
Burton, though he plays a different position than Pittman, could be the perfect replacement for the Indianapolis passing game.
Quick and athletic, Burton was brought in to play Eric Ebron’s role in the downfield passing game and the red zone, and in training camp, the former Bear clearly had chemistry with Colts quarterback Philip Rivers.
“The thing that stood out, first time being around Trey and throwing to Trey, is his feel,” Rivers said. “Trey has that at that tight end position, just very good feel finding spots, being very friendly to the quarterback.”
Burton, who was cut by Chicago in April, will likely be motivated to play well against his former team.
The Bears signed Burton to a four-year, $32 million contract after he helped Reich and the Eagles win the Super Bowl, and for one season, looked like he’d be able to fulfill his potential. Burton set career highs in his first year in Chicago, hauling in 54 passes for 569 yards and six touchdowns.
But he suffered a groin injury in the Bears’ playoff loss to the Eagles, underwent sports hernia surgery and then dealt with a misdiagnosis that eventually led to surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip last December.
“I was misdiagnosed with an injury before the season last year,” Burton said after signing with the Colts. “I had (last-minute) surgery that was pretty serious and very extensive, and I tried to get back to playing. I was kind of rushed back into playing and didn’t necessarily have the time to recover I should have had.”
Burton finished with just 14 catches for 84 yards in eight games.
He thought he’d be back healthy with Chicago this season, at least until the Bears decided to release him late, only a week before the NFL Draft, long after most of the league’s free agency money had been spent.
Now, Burton gets his first chance to show the Bears that they made a mistake by lining up against them.
“I think all players naturally feel that; I think you have to really dial that back a little bit,” Reich said earlier this week about the motivations players feel against their former teams. “You’ve got to focus on your game, what you’re doing. Just having seen and been in that situation a few times, that’s just my experience. Don’t get too caught up in the emotion, just focus on the game and what you’ve got to do.”