Sanders, Freeney Expected to Practice by Wednesday, Dungy Says
INDIANAPOLIS – They have waited and rehabbed for months.
On Monday, the news came for which two of the Colts' most-high profile defensive players have been waiting and working.
Bob Sanders is expected to practice this week.
So is Dwight Freeney.
Sanders, the Colts' two-time Pro Bowl safety and last season's Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and Freeney – a three-time Pro Bowl defensive end – each likely will return to practice by Wednesday, Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said Monday afternoon.
"I would say at some point (this week) we'll get Bob and Dwight back, probably Wednesday," Dungy said Monday, the day the Colts returned to the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center after three-and-a-half weeks of training camp at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute.
While Dungy said quarterback Peyton Manning (knee) isn't expected to return to practice this week, he said the hope is that Freeney and Sanders will play Sunday night against the Buffalo Bills in the first NFL preseason game at new Lucas Oil Stadium.
"I'm getting ready to go, and hopefully, I'll be able to get out there this week," said Sanders, a fifth-year veteran. "That's my plan. We'll see. Hopefully, I'll be starting this week.
"I'm definitely ready. I've been anxious for a long time. I'm excited and ready to go. I worked hard, got back and my body feels great. I feel excellent, so I'm just excited and truly, truly blessed to be able to come back and just be ready."
Sanders, a Pro Bowl selection in 2005 and again last season, has not practiced since undergoing offseason shoulder surgery. Freeney, a Pro Bowl selection from 2004-2006, has not practiced since sustaining a LisFranc injury in his foot against San Diego last November.
Dungy said while each could practice on Tuesday when the team works in Lucas Oil Stadium, he said he expects each to return by Wednesday when the team works at its practice facility.
"If they don't have setbacks in practice I think they both will play (Sunday) and have kind of a limited pitch count," Dungy said. "We'll see how practice goes."
Manning, an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, has not practiced during camp after undergoing surgery to remove an infected bursa sac in his knee.
"He's doing fine," Dungy said. "He hasn't had any setbacks and is doing well."
Dungy said he hopes Manning will return next week.
"That would be my hope, but we'll see what happens," Dungy said.
Sanders, who started one preseason game – the next-to-last game – last preseason before starting 15 of 16 regular-season games, said while he wouldn't necessarily have to play in the preseason, there are benefits.
"I guess it depends," Sanders said. "Physically, I always say we all can endure it. I think the tackling is there. We don't do much tackling in practice. We go straight out in the games and that's when we get our tackling in. I think it's more getting that chemistry with the first guys and getting that timing down.
"I think if you get some games under your belt before you get out there full speed first game of the season you probably play a little bit better."
Said Dungy, "It really goes with the individual with their feeling, No. 1, and with their assistant coach, their position coach depending on what position they play. Some positions, it's easier to play without practicing than others. Everyone's an individual decision."
Also on Monday, Dungy said defensive ends Robert Mathis (ankle sprain), Curtis Johnson (shoulder bruise) and Marcus Howard (oblique) sustained injuries against the Atlanta Falcons this past Saturday that could force them to miss practice time.
"We're a little short in the defensive line," Dungy said. "That will cause us to move some people around, but other than that, I think we came through without many major injuries."