READY TO GO

Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said Friday his sense is safety Bob Sanders and defensive end Dwight Freeney will play Sunday in the first preseason game at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Pro Bowl defensive players each returned to practice this past week after extended rehabilitation periods.

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Sanders, Freeney Anticipating First Game Action of 2008
INDIANAPOLIS – To Bob Sanders, the wait has been long. Real long.

And now that it's at last over, now that he has practiced twice in the last three days and now that he may be days away from playing in an NFL game, the Colts' two-time Pro Bowl safety doesn't bother hiding his emotions.

Sure, the Colts' game Sunday is a preseason game.

And sure, the regular season is still more than two weeks away.

Sanders said he doesn't see it exactly that way.

"I'm excited," Sanders said Friday as the Colts (1-2 in the preseason) continued preparing to play the Buffalo Bills (1-1) in the first preseason game at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday at 8 p.m.

"It's been a long time. Even to go out and put the pads on, to be on the field, to be practicing . . . some guys, when they get hurt, they can go through summer school or practice or get on the field. I haven't been on the field having practice since the last game of the season.

"It's been a long time. But I feel like I've gotten prepared mentally. I'm on it mentally. It's just going to be a good test for my shoulder and getting that game speed back and getting that feel for the new stadium."

Sanders – who underwent offseason shoulder surgery – returned to practice this past Tuesday, as did three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney, who hadn't practiced or played since sustaining a foot injury last November.

Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said his sense is Freeney and Sanders each likely will play Sunday, with Freeney saying Friday he expects to play a few plays.

"I feel good," Sanders said. "I feel mentally prepared. I'm excited to get out there and move around get that game speed, so when it's time to kick it off first game of the season, I'm ready.

"As far as how many reps I get, I'm really not sure. I think we're just going to go in and start the game off and kind of see how it goes."

Also on Friday, Dungy said he expects safety Melvin Bullitt – who missed the first three preseason games with a thumb injury – to play against Buffalo.

He also said he expects the Colts' starters to play deep into the third quarter, which would be the longest action of the preseason for the first-team offense and defense.

Under NFL rules, the Colts must trim the roster from 80 to 75 players early next week, which Dungy said means roster evaluation still will be a crucial part of Sunday's focus.

"It's still evaluation and guys in different spots," Dungy said. "We'll do a lot of special teams evaluation as we start to have to make roster decisions. We have to make five cuts after this game, so it is still evaluation and evaluating how people handle different roles and how they improve. So, it's still ongoing."

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