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With Manning still out, Sorgi focus of Colts' offense

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- Jim Sorgi is becoming used to his new training camp workload.

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- Jim Sorgi is becoming used to his new training camp workload.

He's playing with the Colts' starting offense, doing daily interviews, even trying to rest his precious right arm whenever he can.

In any another August, Sorgi might be better known as the guy protecting Peyton Manning from unnecessary risks. This year, however, Sorgi finds himself in a new role -- temporary starter as the two-time league MVP recovers from knee surgery.

"There are different things you have to do because you take so many reps when you're the No. 1 guy," Sorgi said. "If there are 17 snaps, you're probably taking 14, so your legs get a little tired and there's a little more maintenance stuff you've got to do."

For Sorgi, it's a whole new world.

He made just three preseason starts and played in just 14 regular-season games -- all in mop-up duty or meaningless late season contests -- during his first four seasons with Indianapolis. At practice, it was more of the same with Manning taking most of the snaps.

Then came July 14, the day Manning had surgery to remove an infected bursa sac from his knee. Manning was expected to miss four to six weeks, suddenly putting Sorgi in charge of fine-tuning one of the league's most productive offenses.

At first, he acknowledged, it felt strange. Three weeks later, his impression has changed.

"I can tell you that it's helped me a lot," Sorgi said. "There's a little more attention on me and a little more pressure on my shoulders, which I think is going to help when it comes to games."

The biggest question in Indiana, though, is whether Manning will be ready for the Sept. 7 season opener against Chicago.

If history is any indication, Manning will be there. He has never missed a start in his 10-year career and the streak of 160 consecutive regular-season starts is second all-time for quarterbacks, behind only Brett Favre's 253. In fact, the only play Manning missed because of injury came in 2001 -- a botched handoff that the Miami Dolphins returned for a touchdown.

The speculation began when Manning didn't report to camp July 24 after team doctors advised him to rehab in Indianapolis. Five days later, coach Tony Dungy announced Manning had arrived in Terre Haute.

Since then, Dungy and team president Bill Polian have insisted Manning's recovery is on schedule, but he hasn't been seen at the practice fields at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology like other injured players and isn't expected to practice before the Colts head home Friday.

Dungy said Manning has been spending time critiquing practice and game tapes and attending team meetings while Sorgi runs the show.

Some fans fear Manning might wind up missing more time than at first expected, something Sorgi isn't buying.

"You know it (the Bears game) is such a long way away," he said. "I want to get through this preseason game and prepare for Buffalo (next week) in Lucas Oil Stadium because I want to play well for the fans. Then we'll start talking about the first game."

Manning isn't the only prominent Colt missing practice.

Bob Sanders, last year's Defensive Player of the Year, and former league sacks champion Dwight Freeney are both on the physically-unable-to-perform-list along with Manning. Dungy said Sanders and Freeney want to practice before camp breaks Friday but are more likely to be held out until next week.

Linebacker Tyjuan Hagler and left guard Ryan Lilja, both starters, also are on the PUP list. Hagler is the only one of the five not expected to play in the season opener.

The latest injury report additions came Wednesday when left tackle Tony Ugoh sat out with a knee injury and punter Hunter Smith was limited to holding on kicks because of a hamstring injury.

"Tony had an MRI on the knee and it doesn't appear to be too serious," Dungy said. "We think he might be out a couple of days, but he should be OK."

And the Colts are keeping close watch on rookie tight end Tom Santi's progress.

In June, Santi had surgery for the same ailment as Manning. Santi just started running and could be on the practice field by next week, Dungy said, giving the Colts a possible timetable for Manning's return.

Until then, Sorgi will continue in his new role.

"I've actually rested my shoulder more this year than in the past because you have to keep it fresh," Sorgi said. "You know, the last couple of years, I've not really taken a lot of snaps. These are my snaps."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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