Super Bowl: Report on Indianapolis Colts practice
By Peter King
Pro Football Writers Association
DAVIE, Fla.—With NFL Most Valuable Player Peyton Manning looking particularly sharp and hobbled defensive end Dwight Freeney unavailable, the AFC champion Indianapolis Colts opened their practice week for Super Bowl XLIV late Wednesday afternoon with a 1-hour, 48-minute workout at the Miami Dolphins training complex.
The Colts worked without pads—coach Jim Caldwell said the team practiced in pads only once last week, and would be in shorts and helmets for all four practices this week—under partly cloudy skies on a beautiful afternoon in south Florida. The temperature at the start of practice was 75 degrees, with 65 percent humidity a slight breeze from the northeast.
“Our Wednesday practices have been pretty sharp this year,’’ said Caldwell, the rookie head coach, “and this one was right in line with that. It went well out there. The guys got acclimated well and got some good work in.’’
Freeney, nursing an ankle injury that has his status in doubt for Sunday’s game against New Orleans, was nowhere to be found at practice, continuing the rehabilitation of his grade-three ankle sprain. Also missing was starting cornerback Jerraud Powers, who missed the AFC Championship Game with a foot injury. Caldwell said he has underestimated Freeney’s healing ability several times while with the Colts and couldn’t make a prediction about his readiness for Sunday. Of Powers, the rookie cornerback from Auburn, Caldwell said: “Not certain yet. But I can tell you this: He is moving in the right direction [in his rehabilitation].’’
The Colts listed 19 players on their first injury report of the week, but other than Freeney and Powers, all the rest participated fully in Wednesday’s practice. Clearly, the only players in doubt for Sunday’s game are Powers and Freeney.
Manning, who won his NFL-record fourth MVP earlier this month, led a crisp and effective nickel-offense passing period midway through practice. He completed nine of nine passes against defenders playing New Orleans’ scout-team nickel, including a beautifully throw deep ball for a touchdown to backup tight end Jacob Tamme. He also hit Reggie Wayne earlier in practice in stride on another deep ball.
Caldwell said virtually all of the Colts gameplan was installed last week in Indianapolis, as if the game were to be played last Sunday instead of this Sunday. That’s one of the reasons he said he didn’t feel it was important to be in pads this week. “We’ve played 22 games this year,’’ he said, counting preseason, regular-season and playoffs. “I want them to be nice and hungry come Sunday. If they need pads this time of year … ‘’ His voice trailed off, but the implication was clear—he’d feels nothing more can be accomplished by players hitting each for a day or two this week after six full months of an NFL season.
Visitors to practice included member of the CBS pregame crew (Bill Cowher, Boomer Esiason, Shannon Sharpe, Charley Casserly and Steve Tasker) and announcing team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms).
The Colts will resume preparations late Thursday afternoon with their second practice of the week at the Dolphins facility.