Colts Safety Bob Sanders on his 2010 Preseason Debut: "You Can Always Be Sharper"
INDIANAPOLIS – As Bob Sanders saw it, there were good things.
Sanders, the Colts' seventh-year safety, said while he felt he could have played better in his 2010 NFL preseason debut last Thursday against the Buffalo Bills, there were also times during his playing time he felt quick, when he made plays.
It wasn't a perfect performance, Sanders said. But he said it was a solid start.
"You can always be sharper," Sanders said. "To me, I feel like I did OK, but I could be sharper. That's basically what lets me know that I'm still a little rusty and I have a ways to go."
Sanders, a two-time Pro Bowl selection and the Associated Press 2007 National Football League Defensive Player of the Year, missed much of the last two seasons, playing eight of 32 regular-season games during that span. He missed all but two games last season.
Sanders, who made the Pro Bowl in 2005 and 2007, participated in training camp this year from the beginning, and after not playing in the preseason opener, Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said he played enough on Thursday against the Bills to get "his feet wet."
"It was good to see him back out there," Caldwell said. "He ran around well. I think for his first time out, he did O.K. His standards are pretty high, but I do think that he did alright for his first time out."
Caldwell said watching Sanders against the Bills it was evident the second-round selection in the 2004 NFL Draft still had the speed and power that made him one of the NFL's top play-making, momentum-changing players at his position.
Caldwell also said Sanders' approach to his situation is positive.
"I think he has a fresh outlook on things because I think he feels good physically; thus, you can kind of see it in his entire attitude," Caldwell said. "He's anxious to get out there and play. But just like anything else, first time out, you may not set the world on fire.
"But I do think he certainly got a good feel for what he has to do, and hopefully this week we'll get him a few more plays and get him comfortable."
Colts middle linebacker Gary Brackett said Sanders is making progress.
"I think he's flying around," said Brackett, the team's defensive captain. "Obviously, the game will come to him. He hasn't been playing in a while. But I think Bob's going to be fine."
Sanders said the most imant thing for him now may be getting plays and repetition.
"Rehab is rehab," Sanders said. "Anybody who has been injured before is going to continue to rehab throughout their career, but right now, it's just focus on getting better. The reps help. The more reps you get, the better you play your adjustments, your assignments, all that stuff."
Sanders said in a very real sense the season feels like a new beginning. He has spent significant time the past several off-seasons rehabilitating, and said the opportunity to participate not only in training camp, but in organized team activities this past off-season had him feeling optimistic quickly entering the preseason.
"It's been a while since I've been able to start training camp off, and feel decent, feel pretty good, feel ready to go," Sanders said. "I definitely feel fresh. . . .
"I worked hard this off-season trying to get back, and going into training camp, I knew I would practice at the beginning. Just starting off training camp not on PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) showed me right away I'm strong enough and physically able to go out and perform in the preseason."
And while much of the focus on the part of observers and analysts has been about Sanders returning to his 2006/2007 level – when he was not only one of the NFL's best players at his position but part of a young, improving secondary – Sanders said his goals remain loftier.
"I'm constantly trying to get better," Sanders said. "I've said before, 'I feel like I can get better every year,' and that's my objective, is to get better as a player, as a teammate, and just overall improving my game."
Sanders, who has made the Pro Bowl in every season in which he has started 12 or more games, registered two tackles against the Bills Sunday. As importantly, he said there were plays and series and reactions that showed him he is making progress in the right direction.
"I did feel good," he said. "I felt good about some of the reads and some of the plays I made, but as I said, 'There's always room to grow.'
Also on Monday, Colts five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney met with the media, discussing among other topics the progress of the defense under second-year coordinator Larry Coyer.
"I can only compare it to last year," Freeney said. "Last year, obviously we had a new coordinator and there were some learning curves that we had. I think this year we are ahead of last year, and I think that the more that you are around the scheme and around the guys you get better. So, I think we are a lot better this year."
Freeney said the Colts' approach to signing their own free agents has helped the defense's consistency. The team re-signed safety Antoine Bethea and middle linebacker Gary Brackett this past off-season.
"I think overall, from all positions, there is more experience," Freeney said. "I think that is a little bit different by how we do things compared to other teams. A lot of times you bring in all of these free agents and that changes the chemistry of the defense so much you don't really know about the guy that is next to you.
"I think the benefit of having things the way we have it is that you get to know what to expect from each guy."