Colts lose two more running backs

INDIANAPOLIS -- Thursday night’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals wasn’t about Andrew Luck and the rest of the Indianapolis Colts’ starters. It was about the backups trying to impress the coaching staff and front office in their attempt to make the 53-man roster or at least the practice squad.

While two running backs went down with injuries, a former Ivy League running back helped his case in the Colts’ 9-6 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

The end for Ballard? It was as if running back Vick Ballard knew his time with the Colts was coming to an end as he pulled up right before going out of bounds, then went straight to the bench grabbing his hamstring. Frank Gore and Matt Hasselbeck spent time talking to Ballard, who finished with 29 yards rushing and 12 yards receiving. The 12 touches prior to getting injured showed the Colts were trying to give him an opportunity to prove he deserves a roster spot. But as has been the case the past two seasons, Ballard can’t stay healthy. Thursday was the third time Ballard injured his hamstring since the start of training camp. The three hamstring injuries go with a torn ACL in 2013 and torn Achilles in 2014 for Ballard.

Don’t forget about me: Receiver Duron Carter made up for his slow start in the preseason by catching eight passes for 85 yards. His big catch was for 42 yards, which put the Colts deep in Cincinnati territory. The drive stalled, forcing the Colts to settle for an Adam Vinatieri 26-yard field goal. Carter likely will enter the season as the Colts’ fifth receiver behind T.Y. Hilton, Andre Johnson, Phillip Dorsett and Donte Moncrief.

Who got hurt? Daniel “Boom” Herron, the front-runner to be the No. 2 running back, left the game in the first half with a shoulder injury suffered while returning a kickoff. Cornerback Sheldon Price suffered a concussion after recovering a fumble caused by safety Clayton Geathers.

Irving plays: Inside linebacker Nate Irving finally made his preseason debut. Irving, whom the Colts signed in the offseason, had been limited most of training camp as he continued to work his way back from ACL knee surgery, which happened while with the Denver Broncos last season. He didn’t have any tackles Thursday, but a healthy Irving will help starting inside linebackers Jerrell Freeman and D’Qwell Jackson this season.

Rookie watch: David Parry could be on his way to being the Colts’ starting nose tackle in their Week 1 game at Buffalo. Parry starting in the final preseason game wouldn’t seem like a big deal because it’s the game where the majority of the starters sit out. But then Josh Chapman, the starting nose tackle last season, entered the game on the second series, and he was still in the game in the fourth quarter when Parry was on the sideline watching. The Colts gave an indication that a move could be coming because Parry’s snaps with the starting defense increased as the preseason progressed.

One reason to freak out: The Colts appeared to be set at running back behind starter Frank Gore. But that may not be the case anymore. Besides Ballard and Herron being injured, rookie Josh Robinson didn’t play Thursday because he’s still going through the concussion protocol. Robinson suffered a concussion in the Aug. 29 preseason game at St. Louis. Ballard and Herron’s injuries left Zurlon Tipton and Tyler Varga as the running backs in the second half.

Taking advantage of an opportunity: Varga tried to take advantage of the extra carries in the second half. Varga, who starred at Yale in college, rushed for 37 yards on nine carries. His best run came when he broke two tackles, spun off another and found a hole to rush for 19 yards. He also had four receptions for 17 yards.

Only a handful of regulars: Only three of the Colts’ 11 offensive starters played. The Colts started center Khaled Holmes, right tackle Jack Mewhort and left guard Lance Louis. Joe Reitz started at left tackle in place of Anthony Castonzo and David Arkin started at right guard for Todd Herremans.