Hart Among Three Colts Players Returning to Practice Monday
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – The way Mike Hart sees it, why worry?
Hart, a second-year running back for the Colts, returned to practice Monday morning after missing last week with an ankle injury – that, after missing the last three months of his rookie season last season with a serious knee injury.
Still, Hart was smiling after a two-hour session in pads Monday. One reason was he was happy to be back after being out a week.
The other . . .
Well, the other is that that's just his way.
"I'm just always happy about everything," Hart said Monday morning between a pair of 2009 Training Camp practices at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
"It's a happy-to-be-here type of deal. I'm trying to make the most of it."
Hart, a sixth-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft from the University of Michigan, missed the Colts' preseason opener with the ankle injury sustained late in the first week of training camp. But upon Hart's return Monday he was working full speed, catching passes out of the backfield and making several crisp runs inside and outside in the morning practice.
Hart's return came the same day that cornerback Kelvin Hayden (hamstring) and tight end Jacob Tamme also returned to practice. The trio was among the Colts players who missed the 13-3 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the 2009 preseason opener this past Friday.
"He looked good," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said of Hart. "We'll see how he feels after practice, but he's making progress."
Hart (5-feet-9, 202 pounds), the University of Michigan's all-time leading rusher, rushed for 5,040 yards and 41 touchdowns in college, leading the Big 10 in rushing as a freshman with 1,455 yards and nine touchdowns on 282 carries in 2004. He also rushed for a career-high 1,562 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior and 1,361 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior.
He earned a roster position with the Colts as the third running back behind Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes last season, having a solid preseason. He then had a key third-down run in an early October victory over Baltimore, but sustained a season-ending knee injury later in the same game.
He returned to work in the Colts' organized team activities this past offseason, and began training camp working with the team until an ankle injury late in the first week of camp.
"It's one of those things – an ankle's not serious," Hart said. "It just got rolled up. It's one of those things where you know you're not going to be out long. It's a day-to-day thing. Now, if it would have been something I need surgery on – a high-ankle sprain – then I would have been like . . .
"But it was a low, basketball sprain, so it was no big deal."
Hart, competing with second-year back Chad Simpson and first-year veteran Lance Ball for the third running back position behind Addai and first-round running back Donald Brown, said while he wasn't discouraged last week, the coming weeks are critical.
"Especially after not playing football for a year, this is what gets you ready," Hart said. "This is what gets you the feel back – you get out there and get tackled again, hit some guys, block some guys and get out there on special teams.
"Mentally, it just helps you a lot."
Also on Monday, Caldwell said after being disappointed following the loss to Minnesota, he liked what he saw from practice Monday.
"I think you find most of the guys in this business are here because of the fact that they're very, very competitive," Caldwell said. "Our guys obviously are no different. They certainly felt that they weren't pleased with their performance, and they want to go out and do something about it.
"They performed extremely well today."
The morning workout occurred in full pads, something defensive end Dwight Freeney said added a touch to the intensity.
"Anytime you get full pads on after a couple of days rest – they like to put full pads on for a reason," Freeney, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, said with a smile. "You get out there and start hitting again and that's what you want."
Also Monday, Caldwell said defensive end Raheem Brock likely will miss 2-to-4 weeks with a hand injury sustained against Minnesota while defensive end Robert Mathis missed practice with a thigh bruise. Caldwell said the 2008 Pro Bowl selection is "day to day."
Starting defensive tackle Antonio Johnson, starting cornerback Marlin Jackson, starting wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez and starting left offensive tackle Charlie Johnson practiced after missing the preseason opener for precautionary reasons.