INDIANAPOLIS – Sunday will be a return to the field for a number of Colts players who missed all or part of preseason.
To name two players fitting those descriptions, use Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener. Allen missed all four games with a foot injury suffered in camp, while Fleener missed the final two games with a sprained knee.
Chuck Pagano says both are healthy for Sunday's Oakland opener. The duo drafted in consecutive rounds last year helped the team to an 8-4 mark as rookies sharing the field.
"It will be nice," said Fleener. "Whether it's Dwayne being down with something or me being down with something, we've kind of missed each other a little bit in preseason. It's always nice to have him out there because he's a constant threat. It makes my job easier."
One of six 16-game starters in 2012, Allen says he is lagging a bit from inactivity.
"I feel like I'm behind a little bit. Not necessarily from my own technique but from getting chemistry with the other guys," said Allen. "I was able to watch and see how those guys meshed together. T.Y. (Hilton) showed growth. Reggie (Wayne) was still Reggie. Andrew's (Luck) growth and the offensive line grew together.
"From that standpoint, I do feel I'm behind a little bit. I'm hoping to catch back up in practice."
Allen and Fleener are unsure the roles and amount of time they will have on Sunday, but one point that is obvious is the great extent to which their positions factor into a Pep Hamilton offense.
Stanford tight ends caught nearly as many passes (206-to-179) as wide receivers did in 2011-12 under Hamilton, but they doubled the number of touchdowns (30-to-15). They also helped pave the way for Cardinal rushers to thrive.
That same focus is trained on Fleener and Allen, and Allen used his inactivity to delve deeper in understanding Hamilton's expectations.
"That's one thing with sitting out I've been able to be in my playbook a little bit more," said Allen. "Instead of actually running through routes, I've been able to watch and listen and really gather a lot more information than I could have if I was out there on the field.
"I'm not going to say I've mastered it just yet, but I'm well on my way."
Andrew Luck has full command of the attack and looks forward to the return of the players who "add so much to the offense. They're both so dynamic."
Matt Hasselbeck also sees a huge role for Allen.
"I think he's the key," said Hasselbeck. "Just that position in general, having a guy who is a threat in the rushing and passing game is part of what makes this offense go. The fact we have him is huge. It's not only an advantage, it's sort of a necessary thing."
Allen says he knows what to expect now in his second year. While 2012 was an eye-opener, he led NFL rookie tight ends with 45 receptions. That total set the franchise rookie mark, and Allen sees a different Luck as they both prepare to open second seasons.
"His confidence and poise in the huddle (is different)," said Allen. "Of course, that was one thing everyone raved about him last year having for such a young guy. He's taken it to another level.
"His control and command in the huddle is superior now. You feel it whenever you get in the huddle. If it gets a little chatty, he's not afraid to tell people to shut up."
QUOTE TO NOTE(Chuck Pagano on the importance of stopping Oakland RB-Darren McFadden)
"That's first and foremost. We have our work cut out for us with (Terrelle) Pryor, but stopping McFadden is our major concern with the run game. He's a big, fast, physical guy that can run between the tackles, and he can cut it back or he can bounce outside. If you give him a crease, he's got the speed to take it the distance. He's a homerun hitter. We got to make sure we set the edge and get as many hats on Darren as possible."
SATURDAY ON THURSDAY – Jeff Saturday is one of 32 NFL legends who will appear in a pre-taped segment for the celebration heading into NBC's prime-time game Thursday featuring Baltimore and Denver. Twenty-one Hall-of-Famers are featured, including Marshall Faulk who appears in affiliation with St. Louis. Faulk played from 1994-98 with Indianapolis. Last year, Jeff Herrod was part of this representing the Colts. Saturday is a member of the Colts' front office after a 13-year playing career from 1999-2011. His 197 career games tie for fourth-most in club history, and his being a part of 132 regular-season wins tie for second-most.
COLTS PRACTICE REPORT – Did not participate: OT-Anthony Castonzo (knee), LB-Kavell Conner (ankle); Full participation: TE-Dwayne Allen (foot), RB-Ahmad Bradshaw (foot), TE-Coby Fleener (knee), LB-Mario Harvey (knee), S-Joe Lefeged (knee), G-Mike McGlynn (knee), WR-David Reed (head-concussion).