INDIANAPOLIS -- Dwight Freeney's season is over, and now Simeon Rice has a chance to start anew in Indianapolis.
Freeney, the three-time Pro Bowl defensive end and highest-paid defender in the league, was placed on injured reserve on Wednesday by the Colts. He's scheduled to undergo surgery later this week or early next week on his injured left foot.
The blow is potentially devastating to Indianapolis, which has already been depleted by injuries. Seven starters missed Sunday's game in San Diego, and Indianapolis lost four more starters, including Freeney, during the game.
"Dwight is a player you cannot replace," former Pro Bowl safety Bob Sanders said. "But we'll continue to move on, continue to get better. We'll put new guys in and continue to roll. That's what Dwight would want us to do."
The Colts (7-2) don't have a choice.
Freeney injured the foot while making one of his patented spin moves on a pass rush during the fourth quarter of Sunday's 23-21 loss. He immediately crumpled to the ground, hopped off the field and then could not put any weight on the foot while standing on the sideline. Eventually, he was taken to the locker room on a cart.
Coach Tony Dungy originally said he did not believe the injury would be season-ending, and team president Bill Polian indicated on his weekly radio show on Monday night that Freeney was likely to miss at least three or four games.
Further examination Tuesday revealed a more serious injury in the midfoot area where a cluster of bones forms a small arch between the ankle and toes. The official diagnosis is a Lis Franc injury, a type of fracture-dislocation of the midfoot.
In a statement released just before Dungy spoke with reporters, the Colts said Freeney was expected to make a full recovery in time for next season.
"You just have to move forward, you can't move back," Dungy said.
To help fill the void, the AFC South-leading Colts claimed Rice, a two-time All-Pro defensive end, off waivers Monday. Rice spent the first half of the season with Denver, which signed him to a one-year, $3 million contract in September.
Rice's transition should not be difficult because he spent six seasons in Tampa Bay, where he played in the same system used by the Colts. Rice is also familiar with Dungy, who helped persuade Rice to join the Buccaneers in 2001.
It's the second straight year the Colts have brought in one of Dungy's former defensive linemen to fill holes. Last year, they traded a second-round draft pick to Tampa Bay for defensive tackle Anthony McFarland after Corey Simon was lost for the season.
McFarland eventually helped shore up a leaky run defense, which aided the Colts' run to the Super Bowl title.
Rice, who feels Indy's system is a better fit for his skills than Denver's, hopes to make the same impact.
"I went there with the mind-set that they would play me the same way I played in the past, and that wasn't the case," Rice said of the Broncos. "It wasn't a good fit for me. This fits me. I like this situation, and I helped build this thing in Tampa."
Rice, in his 12th NFL season, has the second-most sacks of any active player in the NFL (121) and is expected to initially play the right side, where Freeney did.
It's uncertain how much playing time Rice might get this week against Kansas City, and Dungy indicated he may start Josh Thomas and use Rice primarily in pass-rushing situations.
"One thing we can't do is think that he (Rice) is going to be the savior or a knight in shining armor who is going to make everything OK," Dungy said.
Freeney's absence isn't the only one Indianapolis has to contend with.
Perennial Pro Bowl wide receiver Marvin Harrison (bruised left knee) and linebacker Freddy Keiaho (ear) have missed four of the last five games; tight end Dallas Clark sat out last week with a concussion; left tackle Tony Ugoh (neck) has missed three straight games; linebacker Tyjuan Hagler (neck) has been out the last two weeks; and defensive tackle Raheem Brock (neck) sat out Sunday.
During Sunday's game, right tackle Ryan Diem left with a right knee injury; Charlie Johnson -- Ugoh's replacement -- went down with a left knee injury; and defensive tackle Keyunta Dawson -- Brock's replacement -- left early with what appeared to be a hand injury.
The Colts did get some good news on Wednesday as Clark and Ugoh both returned to practice.
The Colts placed backup linebacker Victor Worsley on injured reserve and re-signed defensive back T.J. Rushing to the active roster after cutting him Saturday to free up a roster spot. Indy also signed receiver Devin Aromashodu from the Houston practice squad, putting him on the active roster, and added linebacker Brandon Archer to the practice squad.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press