Sanders could make '09 debut this week

INDIANAPOLIS -- Bob Sanders hopes to make his season debut Sunday at St. Louis.

The 2007 NFL defensive player of the year, who has not played in a game since January, is expected to participate in most of the team's practice work this week. For the first time this season, Sanders was not listed on the team's injury report Wednesday.

"He's improving," coach Jim Caldwell said. "He's been ramping up his activity over the last three weeks and we anticipate he will be able to do something for us [Sunday]."

It's not the first time Indy (5-0) has indicated Sanders could play. The two-time Pro Bowl safety returned to practice and traveled with the team to Nashville for the Oct. 11 game. But with a bye last week, the Colts opted to hold Sanders out.

Sanders missed all of training camp, all he preseason and the first month of the regular season after surgery on his right knee. The Colts were hoping he'd be back sooner than six weeks, which is why they did not save a roster spot by putting him on the physically unable to perform list.

But now, it appears, Sanders is close to playing shape.

"I feel better than I've felt in a long time," Sanders said Wednesday. "I feel excited about that and I'm ready to get in there. But we've not made that decision [about playing] yet."

Injuries have limited Sanders to appearing in just 43 of 85 games in six NFL seasons.

Starting cornerback Kelvin Hayden, who missed the last three games with a left hamstring injury, and left tackle Charlie Johnson, who sat out the Tennessee game with a left knee injury, are both expected to return this week.

Cornerback Marlin Jackson, a former first-round pick, is not expected back for at least two more weeks after straining the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. The injury was initially believed to be to Jackson's surgically repaired left knee, but he corrected that Wednesday.

"I saw that in the paper, and that's not the one I had surgery on," Jackson said. "I'm looking to come back after San Francisco [Nov. 1]."

Jackson, receiver Anthony Gonzalez (right knee), kicker Adam Vinatieri (right knee), cornerback Tim Jennings (calf) and backup guard Jamey Richard (illness) did not practice Wednesday.