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Pro Bowl defensive end misses first day of camp

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- The Indianapolis Colts opened practice
Thursday without one of their four Pro Bowl players.

Defensive end Dwight Freeney, the NFL's 2004 sacks champion,
missed the morning practice with a shoulder injury. Colts officials
knew this was a possibility after Freeney had what they described
as minor offseason surgery.
When Freeney reported to camp, he said he expected to be on the
field Thursday if doctors cleared him.
"Yeah, I flunked," he said. "But it's all good. I think it's
more about protecting it than anything. It's more of, 'Let's not do
something stupid and take some time to get it where it needs to
be.' "
After practice, coach Tony Dungy said Freeney, one of the
league's most dangerous pass rushers, was healing more quickly than
expected.
Freeney, who pronounced himself healthy on Wednesday, said he
was day to day and expected to be practicing soon. But the Colts
placed him on the physically unable to perform list, meaning he
doesn't count against the team's roster limit.
Freeney ranks among the league's all-time leaders for sacks in
the first three seasons with 40. Only Reggie White (52) and Derrick
Thomas (43{) had more.
In 2003, Freeney was rewarded for an 11-sack season by becoming
the first Colts defender to make the Pro Bowl since Duane Bickett
in 1987. He repeated that feat last year when he became the first
Colts player to lead the league in sacks (16).
"He wasn't even healthy last year," linebacker David Thornton
said Wednesday.
Until Freeney can start working alongside his teammates, he'll
be working primarily with the trainers and strength coach.
"It's nothing really physical, but with pads you might get hit
or land the wrong way," he said. "They just don't want to take a
chance."
Freeney wasn't the only defensive lineman missing Thursday
morning.
The Colts' second-leading sacker last season, Robert Mathis,
also sat out the first practice, and defensive lineman Josh Thomas
was held out of the afternoon workout.
Both players are recovering from knee surgery and are limited to
one practice each day, so the team is using them in a rotation,
Dungy said.
Mathis had 10½ sacks last season, but did not play against New
England in the second round of the AFC playoffs. Thomas was a key
contributor in the defensive line rotation before tearing the
anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last November. Thomas
missed the last five regular-season games and both playoff games.