Indianapolis Colts Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney has a torn ligament in his right ankle that will make it difficult for him to play against the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV, a source familiar with the injury told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
The Colts were maintaining Sunday that Freeney has a low ankle sprain and remained questionable, which means he has about a 50-50 chance of playing.
Team spokesman Craig Kelley said Sunday night Freeney was being treated in Florida for a basketball-type injury.
"He is under the care of our athletic training staff," Kelley said. "Nothing we have seen changes our diagnosis that he is questionable. He has a third-degree, low basketball sprain."
A third-degree ankle sprain by definition involves a complete tear of an ankle ligament.
Despite the fact that Colts president Bill Polian has predicted that Freeney will play, there are serious questions about whether he will. Even if Freeney can, the question then becomes how effective he can be.
Freeney, who has been in a walking boot all week, flew to South Florida on Friday to begin a battery of treatments for the ankle. Freeney has used a hyperbaric chamber this week to help heal, a technique he often uses to try to heal from injuries quickly.
Freeney is also using a device called ARP that is similar to a stem device to move the blood supply to the damaged ankle. The ARP operates differently from normal stem devices, but ARP has helped him in past years recover quickly from groin and hamstring pulls.
Freeney's ankle is said to be heavily swollen. The torn ligament is on the outside of his right ankle, which will make it difficult for him to pivot and use his whirling-dervish pass moves to get to Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Freeney did not practice Wednesday, Thursday or Friday and has not been available to reporters since the AFC Championship Game.
"It's hard to speculate at this point," Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said during ESPN's Pro Bowl broadcast. "Dwight is one of our best players, we know that. But all season long Coach Caldwell has talked about picking up the bayonet. Someone's got to step up. If Dwight were not to be able to go that would be tough, but somebody else will step up and we'll feel confident in whoever that is."
Freeney injured the ankle pulling up in an effort to not hit Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez late in the fourth quarter of the Colts' AFC Championship Game win. Freeney didn't hit Sanchez, but he did injure himself.
"He has had injuries before where they said [he's] not going to play and he has come back," Colts tight end Dallas Clark said during the Pro Bowl. "He is a competitor, he is one of the toughest guys on our team and I never expect him to miss anything."
Freeney will continue undergoing treatment all week with the hope of playing. But if the Colts do not have Freeney, they will be missing their top defender, a player who tied for third in the league this season with 13.5 sacks.
But Freeney also has a history of healing fast, including earlier this season, when he returned seven days after hurting his quadriceps -- an injury that some reports said would keep the former league sacks champ out up to three weeks. That was in late September.
Freeney did not miss a game until Nov. 29 at Houston, when he sat out with an abdominal injury. The only other game he missed this season was the regular-season finale at Buffalo when most Indy starters played sparingly or not at all.
He finished this season with 13½ sacks, the sixth time in eight NFL seasons Freeney has had at least 10 sacks.
Information from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton and The Associated Press was used in this report.