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Indianapolis Colts safety Malik Hooker prepares for a Nov. 11 against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium.

INDIANAPOLIS — Malik Hooker jokes the Indianapolis Colts training staff is getting lonely without him this spring.

He likes to gently remind them he spent plenty of time on a training table over the past two years.

For the first time as a pro, the rangy safety is enjoying an injury-free offseason.

The training room's loss soon might become the defense's gain.

“I feel like coming in my rookie year, I done a great job of showing the type of player I can be before the injury happened,” Hooker told the media Tuesday at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. “Last year was a little bit more quiet. Then this year, I feel like this is the year I’m gonna be the player that the Colts brought me here to be.”

Hooker — the 15th overall pick out of Ohio State in 2017 — had three interceptions in just seven games as a rookie before blowing out the MCL and ACL in the same knee during a loss against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The mental hurdles involved in recovering from that injury haunted him through the first half of 2018.

Hooker estimates it was Week 6 before he fully regained confidence in his surgically rebuilt joint, despite the fact there was nothing physically wrong.

“It really wasn’t aggravated or nothing like that,” Hooker said. “It didn’t hurt me. It was all mental.”

Just as he regained trust in his knee and began feeling like himself again on the field, hip and foot injuries arose to stall the momentum.

The foot injury eventually sidelined him for the divisional playoff loss against the Kansas City Chiefs, a fact it took some time for the safety to reconcile.

After some introspection, he understands there was no choice. Playing through the injury and being ineffective would have been a selfish decision.

Instead, Hooker trusted his teammates and allowed his injuries time to heal.

The results have been evident during offseason workouts.

Hooker has been a full participant for the first time. He seems to have an ever-present smile, and he's making an impact on a defense expected to be faster and more versatile in its second year under fast-rising coordinator Matt Eberflus.

“I absolutely see a difference in Malik,” head coach Frank Reich said. “I see a difference in the way he’s moving, making plays on the ball. He just seems to be, in every aspect of his game, seems to be a notch or two higher. So I think that going into this offseason healthy has served him well.”

Indianapolis drafted Hooker with the idea of adding a playmaker who can cover the defensive secondary from sideline to sideline and provide extra possessions for a high-powered offense.

After a fast start before the knee injury, Hooker had just two interceptions in 14 games last season. But he's quick to point out stats don't tell the whole story.

He believes fewer opportunities came his way because he was doing his job and discouraging quarterbacks to take chances with the deep ball.

If Hooker's correct, opposing passers could have even fewer options for attacking the secondary in 2019.

Fellow safety Clayton Geathers is feeling better than he has in years and should be ready for the start of training camp. Matthias Farley is back to full health after missing much of last season on injured reserve, and cornerback Quincy Wilson has reported at a lighter weight more consistent with his versatile role as a multi-purpose defensive back.

Add in career years from cornerbacks Kenny Moore II and Pierre Desir last season and the drafting of cornerback Rock Ya-Sin and safety Khari Willis and it's easy to see where Hooker's optimism is coming from.

“We’re all finally healthy,” Hooker said. “... I feel like this is the year that we’re gonna show that we’re one of the top secondaries in the league.”

ROSTER MOVES

It was a busy day on West 56th Street.

The good news came with the announcement of a contract extension for punter Rigoberto Sanchez that is believed to tie him to the roster through 2023.

The bad news was announced by Reich during his media availability. Rookie center Javon Patterson — a seventh-round pick out of Ole Miss — tore his ACL and will be out for the season.

The Colts signed guard Nico Siragusa to fill Patterson's roster spot. A fourth-round pick out of San Diego State in 2017, Siragusa spent the first 14 weeks last season on the Baltimore Ravens' practice squad before being signed to the Green Bay Packers' active roster for the final three games.

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