AN OPTIMISTIC FEELING

Colts center Jeff Saturday said he doesn't know when he will return from a preseason knee injury. But the three-time Pro Bowl selection said Thursday he is confident he will return and that when he does, he'll be ready to play effectively.

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Three-Time Pro Bowl Center Saturday Feels Good about Returning
INDIANAPOLIS – For Jeff Saturday, it's time to work and it's time to wait.

Saturday, the Colts' three-time Pro Bowl center, early Thursday afternoon said he doesn't yet know exactly when he will return from a knee injury sustained during the preseason, an injury that Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said will prevent Saturday from playing in the season opener.

But Saturday did say this:

He is confident he will return.

And he is confident that when he does return, he'll be ready to play effectively.

"I let them (team officials, doctors and coaches) decide," Saturday said Thursday as the Colts (13-3 last season), the five-time defending AFC South champions, prepared to play the Chicago Bears (7-9) in the first regular-season game at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday at 8 p.m.

"All you can do is your rehab and progress the way they want you to progress. When it's time to go, I'll be ready to go."

Saturday, a Pro Bowl selection the past three seasons, sustained the injury against Buffalo on August 24, and had not spoken publicly since.

"I'm just working, rehabbing it up and trying to get back as quickly as possible," Saturday said. "I feel better every day. Everything's moving along."

Saturday, who said he is rehabilitating twice a day, said after meeting with Colts physicians and physicians outside the team, the decision was made to opt against surgery.

Saturday, the Colts' starting center since 2000, has missed just two games because of injuries in eight seasons – each coming in 2004 because of a calf injury.

"I'll do the best I can to tough it out, that's for sure," Saturday said "It's a day-to-day thing. We're just working every day to rehab and get it back strong.

"I'm letting it heal by itself. I'm not going to get surgery unless something else happens to it. All the doctors agreed that time heals it and there's no reason to go and do something invasive unless it was absolutely necessary.

"I feel like I'm on a great program and I'm doing what I'm supposed to do to get ready."

Saturday said when he returns, he will do so at a time when he and the team feel he's 100 percent.

"Hopefully, when you come back you're ready to go," Saturday said. "That's kind of the motto we've had here and I'm sure we'll stay to it. I'm working as hard as I can to get it to where it's as normal as it can be.

"I'm sure I'll have to play with some type of tape or brace or something, but if you look around the league, a lot of linemen do it anyway. It's something I haven't had to do, but I would do it if that's what they asked me to do."

Dungy also said he expects the starting offensive line on Sunday to include veteran Charlie Johnson at left guard and veteran Dan Federkeil at right guard.

"(Offensive line coach) Howard (Mudd) really works those guys at a lot of different spots," Dungy said.

Quarterback Peyton Manning, who missed the preseason following knee surgery, worked throughout Wednesday's practice, Dungy said Thursday afternoon.

"Peyton went the whole practice and did fine," Dungy said. "I think for us we've kind of gotten out of the Let's-Watch-Peyton mode and see how many plays he does and what he was able to do. We monitored him early on that first week (returning to practice last week).

"As far this week, it's really just like a normal practice week for us. It was (Wednesday) and I think that's the way it's going to be from here on out."

Also, Manning and middle linebacker Gary Brackett have been named team captains this season, Dungy said.

"It's an election process," Dungy said. "That's the way we do it. We don't elect special teams captains. We kind of change those week to week. (Kicker) Adam (Vinatieri) will start out the first game and then we'll go kind of go on who has the best special teams game as kind of an honor.

"We've got a number of guys who provide that leadership, but Gary and Peyton are the guys who were elected by their teammates."

Also on Thursday, the Colts released their second injury reof the week, with center Jeff Saturday (knee), guard Mike Pollak (knee) and safety Bob Sanders (not injury related-resting) listed as not participating and rookie wide receiver Pierre Garcon (shoulder) and defensive lineman Curtis Johnson (shoulder) listed as participating on a limited basis.

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