Pro Bowl defensive end misses first day of camp

Updated: July 28, 2005, 9:25 PM ET
Associated Press

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

Dwight Freeney
Defensive End
Indianapolis Colts
Tot Ast Solo FF Sack Int
36 33 3 4 16 0

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.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press