By Tom James
INDIANAPOLIS — If all goes well, the Indianapolis Colts are expected to activate quarterback Peyton Manning from the team’s physically unable to perform list sometime today.
Manning, who has been sidelined since a July 14 surgical procedure to remove an infected bursa sac from his left knee, saw limited light work in practice last week. If he is activated, the two-time National Football League Most Valuable Player selection will probably not play against the Cincinnati Bengals Thursday night in the team’s final preseason game.
“We have a chance to get Peyton activated and out to practice. So we’ll see how that goes,” coach Tony Dungy said Monday.
“I think we’ll ease him in and see how he practices and what he’s able to do. We’ll see from there.”
As for the Bengals game, Dungy said that the short week — Indianapolis has only three days to prepare for Cincinnati — will most likely prevent Manning from getting on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“Probably not on the short week. And with everything else that’s going on, health-wise [with other Colts players], I don’t think so,” he said.
Dungy added that rookie tight end Tom Santi and wide receiver Roy Hall may also return to practice this week. Santi has also been on Indianapolis’s physically unable to perform list after having similar type of surgery as Manning in early July. Hall, meanwhile, has been nursing a strained hamstring for the past two weeks.
“That would be a big plus if we can get [Hall] going and get a week’s work in,” the Colts coach said.
• Injury list — The bad news is that kick returner/cornerback T.J. Rushing (knee), center Jeff Saturday (knee) and backup quarterback Jim Sorgi (knee) could all wind up missing some playing time.
Rushing was hurt early in the first quarter of Sunday night’s 20-7 loss to the Buffalo Bills. In addition, Saturday left the Bills game in the third quarter and Sorgi was a pre-game scratch after battling a sore knee in practice last week. He was hurt in the Colts’ 16-9 win at Atlanta on Aug. 16, although the injury didn’t appear to be serious at the time.
All three underwent magnetic resonance imaging tests on Monday, but the results were not immediately known.
“I still don’t have a complete handle on [the injuries]. But neither T.J. Rushing or Jeff Saturday would be able to play this week. We’ll see what the long term look is a little bit later on. I have not spoken to the doctors on the MRI results. Again, we’ll probably have a little bit better idea [today],” Dungy said.
Weakside linebacker Freddy Keiaho and defensive tackle Ed Johnson were both sidelined for the Bills game. Keiaho was hurt in practice last week and was held out as a precautionary measure. Johnson, meanwhile, suffered a thigh injury during workouts last week.
Their status for the Cincinnati game, though, remains undecided.
• Three quarterbacks? — Given the problems that Manning and Sorgi have gone through with knee injuries during training camp and the preseason, the Colts will most likely keep a third quarterback once the regular season begins.
Indianapolis has rolled the dice the last several seasons and have been one of the few NFL teams to go with just two quarterbacks on its active regular-season roster.
“I think probably so at this point,” Dungy said of the decision to keep three quarterbacks. “I think that’s the way we’re looking and leaning. We have not been a three-quarterback team since I’ve been here. But I would think, especially early in the season, we would be.”
• Rookies to pick up the slack — If Saturday is unable to go, rookie Steve Justice could get the start. The Colts’ top draft pick, offensive guard Mike Pollak, can also play center if needed. Pollak, however, missed the Buffalo game due to a sprained knee, although he might return to practice this week.
“Well, we’ll look at it and see how long, once we get the [medical] estimate how long [Saturday’s absence] is going to be. We’ve got a lot of guys that could play in there,” the Indianapolis coach said.
“We’ve got three young centers and then we’ve also got guys that could move in there if it was more of a long-term thing with some of our veteran guys. [Offensive guard] Ryan Lilja has practiced in there. So we’ll see. But it’s still a little too early to project. If it’s just one game, we’ll probably just roll Steve in and go.”
Lilja (knee) remains on the Colts’ physically unable to perform list, but might be getting closer to returning to the practice field.
“Don’t know that yet. We’re hoping so. But, again, we’ll have our medical meeting [Monday] night and kind of figure out where we’re headed,” Dungy said. “[Pollak] is another guy that could get back this week. He would be another option at center if Jeff is going to be out awhile. So, again, it’s probably just sorting it all out and at some point we’ll find out what our best group is.
“But one of the things with those offensive linemen, they all play a number of different spots and that helps you in times like this. People move around and play. It’s something we’ve done and we will do it again. We’ll get our best five out there this week and the best five that’ll be there [Sept. 7] for the [Chicago] Bears.”
• Backups to play against Cincy — With the short week, and two rounds of NFL-mandated cuts set for this week, veteran backups and rookies are slated to get most of the playing time against the Bengals on Thursday night (WTTV-Channel 4, 7 p.m.).
“We have to release five guys [Monday], so we’ll look at that and see how we go. But the whole body of training camp and preseason really will figure into it when we make the major cut [22 players] this coming Friday,” Dungy said.
If Sorgi can’t play against Cincinnati, Jared Lorenzen and Quinn Gray will have their final opportunity to show what they can do in a game situation.
“A lot of that depends on the medical report on Jim [Sorgi]. If Jim’s not able to go, it very well could be the same [as in the Buffalo game], Jared and Quinn splitting a half again,” Dungy said.
• Buffalo game review — When the best thing a head coach can say about a preseason game was a review of the team’s new stadium, it’s a pretty good indication of what he thought of what happened on the field.
“Well, the one real, real positive we got out of [Sunday night’s] was, obviously, opening the new stadium. I thought that part of it was good. Not many glitches in terms of what we had to do with the stadium. It’s fantastic and, as I say, that was the best part of the night,” Dungy said
“I wish we had played a little bit better to christen it. But we didn’t and we’ll go to work on that. But there were some positive things, again, individual performance. But it really came down to Buffalo converting on third downs and us not converting. Buffalo protecting the football and not turning it over and us turning it over five times [four interceptions and a fumble]. That was the difference in the game. And it’s hard to win NFL games when you’re a minus five in giveaway-takeaway regardless of what else happens. We’ll look at it and try to get those corrections made.”
A couple of bright spots included the return of defensive end Dwight Freeney (foot) and safety Bob Sanders (shoulder) from the team’s injury list.
“The encouraging thing was we got Dwight Freeney and Bob Sanders back in action. They did a good job and got through it OK. It was good to see them back,” the Colts coach said.
• Minor stadium glitch — Both teams had problems with their sideline-to-quarterback communications Sunday night, according to Dungy.
“We did have a little trouble, and I think Buffalo did too … I just think we need to find the right frequency for the stadium,” he said. “But other than that, I don’t think we had any problems.”
• Colts pizza — Fans will be able to purchase a “Colts Special” pizza from Papa John’s in a fund-raising effort for the Carson Scholars Fund.
Beginning Sept 1, the Louisville-based pizza company will be selling the large, two-item pizzas with breadsticks for $15.99 in a limited editor collector’s pizza box. The box features pictures of Dungy and Lucas Oil Stadium. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the scholarship fund.