HAPPY RETURNS

Colts safety Bob Sanders and defensive end Dwight Freeney have returned to practice this week. But defensive captain Gary Brackett said before the Pro Bowl players could return, they had to endure a touch of teasing by teammates.

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Sanders, Freeney, Manning Continue to Work as Colts Prepare for Buffalo
INDIANAPOLIS – Their return to practice on Tuesday was well-documented.

Still, while two-time Pro Bowl safety Bob Sanders and three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney are well-respected by their Colts teammates, they hadn't practiced during training camp and hadn't been on the field in pads in months.

As such, their return to practice hardly went unnoticed by their peers.

And it didn't pass without a bit of teasing.

"We joked around with them a little bit," middle linebacker and defensive captain Gary Brackett said Wednesday as the Colts (1-2 in the preseason) prepared to play the Buffalo Bills (1-1) in the first preseason game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis Sunday at 8 p.m.

"We had them announce their name and school they played with (in college) getting back in the huddle as the new guys. But those guys are professional, and obviously, with those guys getting out there, we're a better team.

"We're just happy to have them back."

Freeney, who hadn't practiced since last November because of a foot injury, and Sanders – who hadn't practiced since undergoing offseason shoulder surgery – returned the day of the Colts' first practice at Lucas Oil Stadium and the same day quarterback Peyton Manning made his first public appearance since undergoing knee surgery 10 days before training camp.

Manning, an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, underwent the procedure to remove an infected bursa sac, and hasn't practiced with the team since.

He participated in the team's morning walkthrough Wednesday, Colts Head Tony Dungy said, adding that the plan is for Manning to continue to do so.

"He took all the walkthrough reps today," Dungy said. "He has a routine he's in and pretty much that's going to be it. He's taking all the walkthrough stuff and (backup) Jim (Sorgi)'s taking the regular part of practice. He (Manning) is here and involved and doing fine."

Dungy said while Manning will not play against Buffalo Sunday, he has yet to be ruled out of the team's preseason finale against the Cincinnati Bengals on August 28.

"It's possible," Dungy said. "We've kind of talked through that with Bob Sanders as well. Right now, it looks like Bob's on schedule to play a little bit this week. We'll see how the week goes. We may hold him and have some guys who get their work on the following Thursday."

The Colts, like many teams, often play their starters sparingly in the preseason finale, but having Manning play that week "is something that is weighing into our plans," Dungy said.

We'll take it as it comes," Dungy said. "Right now, he's doing the walkthrough stuff, so we'll see what happens from there. . . . He has been more patient with this than maybe a lot of things and he's doing fine."

Manning, the Associated Press NFL Most Valuable in 2003 and 2004 and the Super Bowl MVP following the 2006 season, never has missed a regular-season game in 10 seasons.

"That's got to mean a lot to him, just to get out there and be mobile and see everyone," Colts tight end Dallas Clark said. "I think that definitely helps him. It's got to be tough for him. It's been a long, tough month for him and just to be out there on the field has to make him feel good and hopefully, get him that much closer. We'll wait and see. . . .

"I know he wants to make that next step and get back in the huddle. He's doing well, but like he told you guys, it's been tough. There's no denying that's basically what it is. . . . It's not something he's had to face in his career so it's a new thing for him, but he's handling it very well and his attitude is what's going to get him through this and it has been very good."

Also, Dungy said the timetable for a return for tight end Tom Santi (knee) and offensive guard Ryan Lilja (knee) is unknown.

"We're just going to kind of take that as it comes," Dungy said. "Neither guy is cleared to go yet, so we're just proceeding forward."

Also on Wednesday, the Colts signed tight end Tyrice Thompson and waived linebacker Danny Verdun-Wheeler.

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