Freeney, the three-time Pro Bowl defensive end and highest-paid
defender in the league, was placed on injured reserve 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 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 Lisfranc
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 [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
In all, 13 players appeared on the report and that doesn't even
include the three defensive starters -- Freeney, McFarland and linebacker
Rob Morris -- who have already
been put on injured reserve, ending their season.
Harrison, the perennial Pro Bowl receiver, has missed four of
the last five games with a bruised left knee and has been limited
in practice on the few occasions he has worked out with the team
over the past month.
Gonzalez dislocated his left thumb on the first play against New
England two weeks ago and sat out Sunday's game at San Diego.
Sanders, the former Pro Bowl safety, was listed with a knee
injury although he has routinely taken at least one day off during
the week all season. Mathis, who plays opposite Freeney, did not
practice because of an injured hip.
Right tackle Ryan Diem (ankle) left the Chargers game just
before halftime and linebacker Tyjuan Hagler (neck) has missed the
last three games. Both were limited in practice Wednesday. Tight
end Bryan Fletcher (calf), one of Peyton Manning's favorite targets
Sunday, also was a limited participant.
Among others sitting out were safety Matt Giordano (hamstring),
Sanders' backup; cornerbacks Dante Hughes (shoulder) and
Tim Jennings (upper leg); left tackle Charlie Johnson, who replaced
Tony Ugoh in the starting lineup the last two weeks but hurt his
left ankle Sunday and didn't finish the game; and receiver Aaron
Moorehead (back), one of only three receivers active for the San
The Colts did get some good news, though.
Tight end Dallas Clark (concussion) returned to practice after
missing last week's game with a concussion, and Ugoh (neck) also
was back on the field. Neither was listed on the report.
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.