TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (July 28, 2005) -- The Indianapolis Colts opened practice without one of their four Pro Bowl players.
Defensive end Dwight Freeney, the NFL sacks champion in 2004, missed the morning practice with a shoulder injury. Colts officials knew this was a possibility after Freeney had what they described as minor offseason surgery.
When Freeney reported to camp, he said he expected to be on the field if doctors cleared him.
"Yeah, I flunked," he said. "But it's all good. I think it's more about protecting it than anything. It's more of, 'Let's not do something stupid and take some time to get it where it needs to be.' "
After practice, coach Tony Dungy said Freeney, one of the league's most dangerous pass rushers, was healing more quickly than expected.
Freeney, who pronounced himself healthy July 27, said he was day-to-day and expected to be practicing soon. But the Colts placed him on the physically unable to perform list, meaning he won't count against the team's roster limit for now.
Freeney ranks among the league's all-time leaders for sacks in the first three seasons with 40. Only Reggie White (52) and Derrick Thomas (43½) had more.
In 2003, Freeney was rewarded for an 11-sack season by becoming the first Colts defender to make the Pro Bowl since Duane Bickett in 1987. He repeated that feat last year when he became the first Colts player to lead the league in sacks (16).
"He wasn't even healthy last year," linebacker David Thornton said July 27.
Until Freeney can start working alongside his teammates, he'll be working primarily with the trainers and strength coach.
"It's nothing really physical, but with pads you might get hit or land the wrong way," he said. "They just don't want to take a chance."
Freeney wasn't the only defensive lineman missing.
The Colts' second-leading sacker last season, Robert Mathis, also sat out the first practice, and defensive lineman Josh Thomas was held out of the afternoon workout.
Both players are recovering from knee surgery and are limited to one practice each day, so the team is using them in a rotation, Dungy said.
Mathis had 10 1/2 sacks last season, but did not play against New England in the second round of the AFC playoffs. Thomas was a key contributor in the defensive-line rotation before tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last November. Thomas missed the last five regular-season games and both playoff games.
The Associated Press News Service
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