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The Colts reached out to Philip Rivers after Carson Wentz tested positive for COVID-19

Nate Atkins
Indianapolis Star

When Carson Wentz tested positive for COVID-19 this week, Frank Reich reached for the phone and called a longtime friend for help.

That friend was Philip Rivers.

A one-year starter for the Colts last season, Rivers has been enjoying retirement with his nine kids in California after a 17-year career. The 40-year-old decided to hang it up after the Colts told him last spring they were exploring other options, before they traded a first-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for Wentz.

But now that Wentz was out with COVID-19, slated to miss 10 days and at least one game as an unvaccinated player, Reich decided to check in. Rivers was a unique but specific option as an eight-time Pro Bowler who led the Colts to an 11-5 record with 24 touchdowns and 11 interceptions last season.

"Yes, I have talked to Philip. You guys know that. I'm close to him," said Reich, who spent three years with Rivers in San Diego and one in Indianapolis.

"We've talked all year long. I've kind of followed his coaching career, talking about his high school team that he coached. I did talk to him fairly recently and he was on a Christmas vacation with his family. I have talked to him about our situation here, but there's nothing further to report."

Philip Rivers led the Indianapolis Colts to an 11-5 record and a wildcard playoff spot last season, his one and only year with the franchise.

Reich declined to go any further into detail than that. He emphasized that talks were about the Colts' "situation" with Wentz, which has already taken a few different turns this week.

Wentz went on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday, becoming the 15th Colts player in the past two weeks to hit the list. He was one of the Colts' last unvaccinated top players who hadn't tested positive.

At the time, Wentz was slated to miss 10 days under NFL protocols. But shortly after the news broke, the NFL and the players association reached an agreement to drop the wait time for all COVID-positive players from 10 days to 5 to fall in line with the one the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention set Monday.

That change made Saturday his final day of isolation so long as he doesn't self-report symptoms Sunday, the day the Colts host the Las Vegas Raiders at 1 p.m.

Rivers has left the door cracked to a possible late-season return with an NFL contender, but he's also being selective. He turned down a chance to start for the Saints this month, multiple New Orleans outlets reported. He has a different familiarity with Reich and the Colts, but it's also clear that Wentz's absence is temporary.

The Colts have named Sam Ehlinger the starter while Wentz is out this week. The sixth-round rookie out of Texas will take the first-team practice reps on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and will prepare to start against the Raiders in the event that Wentz can't make it back.

More:What to know about Colts backup quarterback Sam Ehlinger with Wentz on COVID-19 list

So long as Wentz doesn't self-report symptoms, though, the Colts seem prepared to start him again even with no practice time this week. It's similar to how they handled him for a Week 3 game against the Tennessee Titans, back when he missed the week practice after previously missing most of training camp with injuries.

"Now, we've had a whole year of practice, so we have a lot of accumulated reps," Reich said. "If he's able to get himself back and ready, we're confident. I feel like we're at a much, much better spot than we were in Week 3."

Contact Indianapolis Colts insider Nate Atkins at natkins@indystar.com. Follow him on Twitter @NateAtkins_.