Just like last season, Herron will be counted upon to fill a void left by running back Ahmad Bradshaw suffering a season-ending injury.
“Boom” couldn’t be happier.
“Glad to be back, man. Glad to be back,” Herron said Wednesday. “Very happy. Very happy.
“I was happy to see my teammates, my coaches. I’m happy to see you guys.”
He couldn’t stop smiling as he spoke. And he laughed long and hard.
He was thought to be gone for good on Sept. 6. For some inexplicable reason, the Colts used Herron on a kickoff return in the preseason finale and he re-aggravated an old left shoulder injury. Just like that, the fourth-year pro who started three games last season was waived injured in final roster cuts.
Herron was granted his release from injured reserve. He knew his injury wasn’t season-ending. He just needed time to get healthy and the Colts decided they couldn’t carry his roster spot for a lengthy amount of time.
The Buffalo Bills eventually signed him. He was used sparingly in four games, rushing 11 times for 37 yards and catching three passes for 20 yards. The Bulls waived him, which couldn’t have been more fortuitous when the Colts claimed him on Nov. 26.
“You never know with this business,” he said. “I just knew if I kept working hard, something would shake for me.
“Coming back here was just like almost a dream come true. This is like home for me. I’m just happy to be back.”
Herron got his start with Cincinnati in 2012, but he proved himself worthy of an NFL roster spot with the Colts. He appeared in all 16 regular-season games last season, scored his first pro touchdown on a 49-yard run, averaged 4.5 yards per carry with 351 yards rushing on 78 attempts and caught three passes for 20 yards.
In January, he etched his name in the Colts record books, tying a franchise playoff record with 10 receptions. He scored touchdowns in postseason wins against the Bengals and Denver Broncos.
When the Colts signed free-agent Frank Gore in the offseason, Herron was still considered an ideal backup who could spell the starter on third downs. “Boom” had proven his versatility as a pass receiver.
“I think we all saw when he was here the way he carries the football, the way he runs, his ability to be an every-down back,” head coach Chuck Pagano said. “Certainly he’ll give us an option when Frank needs a spell, to go in on early downs. If he gets a carry or two here I think he’s more than capable of generating and creating yards for us.
“A good pass protector. A good third-down guy. I think out of the backfield, we all saw him be a viable option when things were taken away deep down the field. He’s really good on check downs. Once our guys found him on those, he was able to create some yards and get some first downs for you in that respect.”
Bradshaw was lost to a season-ending wrist injury just three days after Herron was claimed.
“Obviously you never want to see anybody go down,” he said. “Me and Ahmad are very close. I talk to him all the time. You never want to see that happen, but it’s kind of like one of those things, they always say, ‘Next man up.’ I’ve really got to take advantage of this opportunity and make the best of it.”
One thing that has changed since he left is the quarterback. Matt Hasselbeck is 4-0 as a starter for the injured Andrew Luck. But that’s OK, too. Herron spent the past two seasons on the scout team in practice with Hasselbeck, so he’s comfortable with the backup passer.
The playbook hasn’t changed too much. Herron has been able to get re-acclimated quickly.
It’s fair to say “Boom” is anxious to play Sunday night, when the Colts (6-5) visit the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5) at Heinz Field.
“Any way that they want me to help this team, special teams, playing on offense, if they want to throw me on defense, whatever it may be, I just want to help the team win games,” he said. “Whatever I can do.”
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.