INDIANAPOLIS – Donnie Avery spent the past two seasons waiting for a chance to prove himself.
Hes not sitting around any longer.
The five-year veteran tied his career-high with nine receptions (for 111 yards) in Indianapolis 23-20 victory Sunday and for the first time in three years, hes starting to look like his old speedy self.
I think he is back, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said Thursday. His speed is back, his strength is back, his confidence is building.
For Avery, its been a long journey from No. 1-rated college receiver at Houston to his re-emergence as a bona fide NFL starter.
His career got off to a promising start after St. Louis drafted him with the 33rd overall pick in the 2008 draft – the first receiver chosen that year. In his first two seasons, Avery caught 100 passes for 1,263 yards and seemed destined to become a key piece in the Rams rebuilding project.
All that changed late in the first half of a 2010 preseason game against New England.
When rookie Sam Bradford threw a pass down the right sideline, Avery tried to make a jumping catch. Instead, he fell to the ground clutching his right knee. A few minutes later, he was taken off the field on a golf cart and the next day, the Rams confirmed their worst fear: Avery had torn the anterior cruciate ligament and would miss the rest of the season.
He was cut just before the 2011 season began.
Four weeks later, Tennessee gave him a second chance, signing him as a free agent after losing Kenny Britt to a season-ending knee injury.
But Avery, learning a new offense, still struggled. In eight games with the Titans, he caught only three passes for 45 yards and one touchdown and never started a game before entering free agency.
Fortunately for Avery, the Colts needed veteran receivers and were willing to take a chance on him.
Since hes gotten here, hes been 100 mph. Hes completely healed, coach Chuck Pagano said.
Avery looked good in training camp until a bruised thigh kept him off the field for more than a week.
Since returning, though, Avery has looked more like the guy that had St. Louis raving after his first two years than the receiver still trying to get healthy over the last two years.
Through two weeks, hes caught 12 passes for 148 yards and one touchdown, enough to earn the trust of his new quarterback, Andrew Luck.
Hes very dynamic, fast, quick-twitch, can really stretch the field and get across the field fast on some crossing routes, Luck said.
Im glad to see that its showing up in the games because hes been doing it in practice.