Colts Pro Bowl Safety Could Return to Action This Sunday
INDIANAPOLIS – A bye week interrupted the Indianapolis Colts' 5-0 start, but a big boost to the secondary could be the key to the Colts resuming their winning ways this week.
On Wednesday, Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said the team is continuing to ramp up the activity of Pro Bowl safety Bob Sanders and there is a chance the 2007 NFL Defensive Player- of-the-Year could play this Sunday at St. Louis.
"He's improving," Caldwell said. "He's practicing today, he practiced last week as well … We fully anticipate as things continue to go forth this week that he may be able to do something for us (on Sunday). But we'll kind of wait and see until the end of the week."
Caldwell said the Colts have tried to be "prudent" in bringing Sanders back and have been working closely with team doctors and specialists throughout the safety's rehabilitation.
"We just listen to those guys and see what they tell us," Caldwell said.
Sanders, who underwent knee surgery this past offseason, said he is not sure if he will be able to play against the Rams, but said the few practices he has under his belt have him feeling optimistic.
"It helps a lot," Sanders said. "I haven't been out there since last year, so it is exciting to be back on the field and back with my teammates."
His teammates and coaches are equally happy to have him back.
While the defense is allowing just 14.2 points per game this season, second-best in the NFL, there is no denying Sanders' return would be a big addition to the unit.
"Bob brings a lot of energy and plays his position at a high level," middle linebacker and defensive captain Gary Brackett said. "Anytime you have him on the field, we are a better team."
Despite being injured, Sanders has been a presence around the team in meetings and practices and said he is impressed with the way the defense is performing.
"Melvin (Bullitt) has played excellent this year, (Antoine) Bethea is having another Pro Bowl year and just all the guys around, the corners, the young guys, they are all doing a great job," he said.
If Sanders does play Sunday, he is unsure if he will return as a starter or as a player trying to get his feet wet.
"We haven't made that decision yet," he said.
But either way, defensive end Dwight Freeney said he is looking forward to seeing his old teammate get back on the field.
"It would be big," Freeney said. "We are all excited to have him back. He's a family member and a part of this team. Seeing No. 21 running around back there is definitely going to be a comfortable feeling."
Of all the positives, Freeney said the biggest thing Sanders brings to the team's defense is the presence of another leader on the field who makes all of the right moves.
"The level of consistency," he said, "knowing play in and play out he'll be in right position making the plays."
While Sanders has stayed sharp mentally, he said there will be a bit of an adjustment period when he plays in his first game.
"Just getting my feet underneath me," he said. "I haven't been out there in a long time, and I'm used to running around and making a lot of plays. I just have to make sure I am where I need to be, get my fits, my reads, communication, I mean everything."
If Sunday is the day, Sanders said St. Louis presents quite the challenge. Rams running back Steven Jackson has rushed the ball 120 times for 501 yards (4.2 yards per carry) this season and is also a dangerous threat as a receiver out of the backfield.
"He's very shifty, very quick feet, strong, powerful. He can run you over, he can run around you, he can make you miss, all of those things," Sanders said. "If I'm playing, it will be a great week to test my knee."
But Sanders said he is not rushing back. While Sanders said if it were up to him he would play Sunday, he said the team is going to "be smart about the decisions we make."
"It takes a lot to be back there and play safety, so I have to make sure I'm ready," he said.