Terry McLaurin is the kind of player who focuses on the most important task at hand. For this week, that is making sure the Washington Commanders get a win over the Indianapolis Colts.
The Week 8 matchup has more personal connections for McLaurin. He will be playing in Indianapolis and Lucas Oil Stadium, where he made plenty of memories with his father, for the first time as a professional player, and he would be lying if he said that was not on his mind this week.
"It's kinda cool to be able to go back to where I grew up...where my affinity for football started," McLaurin said.
The thought of playing against Indianapolis has always been on McLaurin's mind, but it is hardly the first time McLaurin has played in the stadium of his childhood team. He helped Cathedral High School win four consecutive state championships, and he was part of two Big Ten Championship teams with Ohio State, both of which were played at Lucas Oil Stadium.
But McLaurin's association with the Colts goes back further than that. His dad was a season ticket holder, and the two of them would root for Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison, who was McLaurin's favorite player.
"That's the kind of receiver I wanted to be, someone who's dependable and did their job." McLaurin said of Harrison. "He played the right way. He was available. He was tough."
The return to Indianapolis is also a full circle moment for McLaurin. He spent his entire childhood dreaming of playing in the NFL. Now, he is set to come to Indianapolis as the No. 1 weapon for the team that drafted him in 2019 and is considered one of the best young receivers in the NFL.
It serves as a reminder to McLaurin of how blessed his life has been, and while his list of ticket requests is longer than he cares to admit, he cannot wait to share the moment with his loved ones.
Still, the best way to celebrate a homecoming for McLaurin would be with a win.
"I wanna keep our win streak going," McLaurin said. "They [the Colts] are really disciplined on defense, and I know they have a new quarterback, but he's probably going to give them a lot of energy. So, we have to go in there and limit the negative plays and get off to a fast start on the road."
Here are some more notes from Wednesday's practice:
-- Ron Rivera was not at practice on Wednesday because of a personal matter, so defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio took his place addressing the media on Wednesday. His first question was about Taylor Heinicke and what his energy does to the locker room, and he said that the players love his grittiness.
"He's just a guy that sells out, finds a way, scrappy, never gives up," Del Rio said. "That's kind of how he's made it...and how he's been able to impact us in a positive way when he's playing for us."
-- There is still no official word on when Chase Young will return to practice, but Del Rio said that the defensive end is working hard and is "close" to making a coming back. Until he is cleared, the team is rooting for him as he goes through his recovery.
"He's doing a great job and keeping his spirits high and staying involved mentally and being very engaged," Del Rio said. "But until he gets the clearance, it's just a 'wait and see.'"
The Washington Commanders have begun their week of prep for the Week 8 game against the Indianapolis Colts. Check out the top photos from Wednesday's practice. Photos by Emilee Fails and Kourtney Carroll/Washington Commanders
-- Sam Ehlinger will be under center for the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, which presents some interesting challenges in terms of watching film on a quarterback that has not played in the regular season up to this point.
The Commanders do know a little bit about him based on preseason film and their own evaluations of him from when he was going through the draft process. Del Rio compared Ehlinger's to that of Heinicke, calling the second-year pro "a scrappy guy" who can extend some plays with his legs.
-- Heinicke had some high praise for McLaurin during his press conference. He called the Commanders' No. 1 wide receiver "the pro's pro" who knows how to talk to people. He is not going to get in someone's face and scream at them, but he tells his teammates what they need to hear.
With that being said, there are still moments where McLaurin gets hyped up. His 37-yard touchdown against the Packers was the most prominent example of that.
"I've never seen him so animated," Heinicke said. "You never see that part of Terry, at least I haven't. When you see Terry like that, that gets everyone juiced, because he's mostly a calm, collected guy."
-- Here are some injury updates: Jahan Dotson was absent from practice after re-tweaking his hamstring during last Thursday's practice. Rivera said last week that the team intends to be very cautious with Dotson as he deals with the injury.
Logan Thomas was practicing with his teammates for the first time in about three weeks and was a limited participant. Thomas suffered a calf injury prior to the game against the Tennessee Titans and has been on the side field ever since. Having Thomas back against the Colts should provide the offense with a boost.