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Colts' Freeney sits out practice with leg injury

INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 20, 2006) -- Dwight Freeney 's injured leg muscle kept him out of practice Sept. 20, and the Indianapolis Colts won't know until later this week whether he'll play Sept. 24 against Jacksonville.

Freeney, a three-time Pro Bowl defensive end and former NFL sacks champion, injured the leg late in a 43-24 victory over Houston on Sept. 17. He underwent an MRI Sept. 18, and the Colts have downplayed the severity of the injury. Coach Tony Dungy even had a tough time describing it.

"I wish I could pronounce the name of the muscle where it's hurt," he said after practice. "But it's somewhere in the leg region, and the doctor said it's an obscure muscle."

Team president Bill Polian said on his weekly radio show that Freeney had strained a gluteus muscle.

Freeney was not in the locker room for interviews Sept. 20.

His potential absence is only of the Colts' concerns.

They brought in Martin Gramatica for a workout because they're uncertain about Adam Vinatieri's availability. Vinatieri hurt his groin against the Texans and did not kick the last extra point or the following kickoff.

Vinatieri, like Freeney, was not talking and Dungy said the team had not yet decided whether to sign Gramatica, who has been unemployed since the New England Patriots released him during training camp.

"He kicked well," Dungy said. "We think he'll be ready to go if we need him. But we will have to evaluate Adam's situation and see what he can do, then make a decision."

For the Colts, these injuries come as the three-time defending AFC South champions anticipate another physical game against their biggest division rival in Week 3. The Colts have won nine straight against division foes -- the last loss was to Jacksonville in October 2004.

The Jaguars beat defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh 9-0 Monday night.

"With the second division game at home, you realize how important it is," quarterback Peyton Manning said. "It's decided the division in the past, everything's right there."

If Freeney cannot play, the Colts (2-0) would be missing the anchor of their defense. Freeney is the team's top pass rusher and usually forces teams to dedicate multiple blockers to slow him down.

At least one teammate expects Freeney to play.

"I think Dwight's fine," defensive tackle Montae Reagor said before being held out of practice for the second straight Wednesday. "He's walking around fine. He may rest a day or two at practice and you never know, but I expect him to go into battle with us Sunday."

Dungy is reserving judgment, for now.

Freeney is listed by the team as questionable along with 20 other players.

The Colts did have some good news as starting guard Ryan Lilja and backup linebacker Freddie Keiaho returned to practice for the first time since August. Lilja hurt his right knee during training camp, and Keiaho injured his left knee in the preseason opener.

Their returns, though, paled in comparison to Freeney.

"We think we'll have at least seven guys ready on the defensive line and maybe eight," Dungy said. "If we only have seven, someone will have to rotate at two positions. But like we always say, they have to be ready to go."

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