Second-Year Linebacker May Start in Middle Against Cincinnati, Dungy Says
INDIANAPOLIS – Buster Davis has played in two games this season.
This past Sunday, when the starter at his position – defensive captain Gary Brackett – sustained a fibula injury, Davis was inactive and unavailable.
That likely will change Sunday. In a big way.
Davis, a second-year veteran acquired off waivers shortly before the season, likely will start at middle linebacker in Brackett's place Sunday against Cincinnati, Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said Wednesday.
"We're going to just roll that way, and see how things go," Dungy said Wednesday as the Colts (8-4) prepared to play the Bengals (1-10-1) at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis. "We'll probably start the game with Buster playing middle and Freddy (Keiaho) playing will (weakside), but we'll see.
"I think Buster is going to be able to handle things fine. We'll see how practice is. If he has any problems, we can put Freddy in there, but right now, our plan is to leave everybody where they are and play the next man."
Keiaho, a starting outside linebacker the first 12 games of the season, played middle in Brackett's Sunday with Davis inactive for the 10th time in 12 games since joining the Colts off waivers from Detroit shortly before the preseason.
Davis, who played collegiately at Florida State, originally was a third-round selection in the 2007 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals, who waived him shortly before the 2007 regular season. He spent last season on the Detroit Lions' practice squad, playing in one game.
"He's a powerful guy," Dungy said of Davis. "He has done a good job on the look squad. We've played a few defenses like ours and he has gotten a chance to play in practice. He hasn't gotten much of a chance to play in the games, but he has done a good job."
Dungy said the linebacker situation is similar to that at safety when the Colts played host to Cincinnati late in the 2006 season. In that game, neither starting safety – Bob Sanders or Antoine Bethea – was able to play, and reserve Matt Giordano and Dexter Reid played in a 34-16 Colts victory.
"They made their first start and they played pretty well," Dungy said. "We thought about shifting guys in and moving (cornerback) Kelvin Hayden and things like that. We ended up just playing the guys who had practiced there the most and they did a good job.
"We can look at that and think that's the blueprint."
Brackett, a starter in 12 games this season and 58 of a possible 60 games since 2005, likely will miss "at least a couple of weeks," Dungy said. Brackett has been the defensive captain since 2006.
Dungy said the Colts did not consider placing Brackett on the injured reserve list, a move that would end his season.
"Our hope is he'll be back and ready to play," Dungy said. "So, we're just going to fight through it short-handed until he gets back. . . . Your middle linebacker is kind of like your quarterback, so it's like playing with a new quarterback in there. Gary does a lot in terms of communication on the field.
"He has been a leader for us, a captain, so it will be an adjustment playing without him, but we'll get through it."
In other Colts news, although center Jeff Saturday said he will try to play Sunday after missing this past week with a calf injury, Dungy said Saturday may miss at least one more week.
Rookie center Jamey Richard started in place of Saturday this past Sunday.
"I sure hope so," Saturday said when asked he will play Sunday. "You have to go through progressions and all kinds of stuff. We'll see what the doctors and trainers think, and we'll just keep going. If it goes good, I'm sure they'll let me go. If not, I'll sit another week. . . .
"They're cautious and wanting to make sure we make a good decision."
Said Dungy, "My sense is we'll probably hold him (Saturday) out this week. He's going to lobby to play. He's going to want to play. But my sense is he will probably be out.'
Also on Wednesday, the Colts released their first injury reof the week, with safety Antoine Bethea (not-injury related-rested), linebacker Gary Brackett (fibula), defensive tackle Keyunta Dawson (hamstring), defensive end Dwight Freeney (not injury related-rested), linebacker Tyjuan Hagler (knee), cornerback Tim Jennings (not injury related-rested), defensive end Robert Mathis (not injury related-rested), safety Bob Sanders (knee), center Jeff Saturday (calf) and wide receiver Reggie Wayne (not injury related-rested) listed as not participating in practice.
Dawson, who has started all 12 games this season, likely will miss two weeks, Dungy said Wednesday.
"Watching on tape, his foot actually gave way in the mud and looked pretty bad," Dungy said. "He feels good and he has great recuperative powers, but he'll definitely be out this week. Next week, we'll see what happens."
Also on Wednesday, the Colts announced they had signed linebacker Rufus Alexander from the Minnesota Vikings' practice squad, waiving defensive back Brandon Foster and adding him to the practice squad. The Colts also waived wide receiver Taj Smith from the practice squad.
Alexander (6-feet-1, 232 pounds), originally a sixth-round selection by the Vikings in the 2007 NFL Draft, played collegiately at Oklahoma. He played in one game this season for the Vikings after missing last season with a knee injury.