Colts MLB Morris ready to step in for ailing Brackett

Updated: November 10, 2006, 4:37 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

It's been nearly two years since Rob Morris started a game for the Indianapolis Colts, but the seven-year veteran middle linebacker insisted that he won't need a road map to locate the huddle for the first defensive snap on Sunday afternoon.

"It's not like I've been sitting at home for the past two years," Morris said.

Rob Morris
Morris

Morris won't do much sitting at all on Sunday when the undefeated Colts host the Buffalo Bills. Starting middle linebacker Gary Brackett, the man who supplanted Morris in the Colts' lineup in training camp two summers ago, missed practice again on Friday with a hamstring strain and won't play against the Bills.

So Morris will be back in familiar environs, albeit for the first time in a while.

The Colts' first-round selection in the 2000 draft, Morris averaged 15 starts per season over a four-season stretch (2001-2004). He missed only three games and four starts in that period, averaging 114.3 tackles per year, and adding seven sacks. His last start, though, came on Dec. 26, 2004. The following summer, in an effort to add speed and coverage skill to the position, Brackett moved to the top of the depth chart.

Brackett has started every game since then, 24 in a row, and is regarded as one of the best pass defenders in the NFL at the middle linebacker spot, as evidenced by his six career interceptions. He is the No. 2 tackler on the Indianapolis defense, behind only weakside linebacker Cato June. But the hamstring injury has kept him out of practice all week and Morris, a plugger by nature, is ready to plug the hole again.

The former Brigham Young star, who has been a standout special teams contributor during his two years as a backup, has worked all week with the first-unit offense. He is also recovering from a hamstring strain that sidelined him for last Sunday night's victory at New England, but is close to 100 percent again.

"It's been fun again to be out there practicing with the No. 1 group," said Morris, whose forte has always been stopping the run. "I'd be lying to say I haven't missed it. But I'm a team guy and I'll do whatever I have to do to be a part of this. But, yeah, it's going to be exciting [on Sunday]."

In a related matter, Pro Bowl free safety Bob Sanders, who did not practice all week, will be a game-time decision for the Colts. Sanders, who missed five games while recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery in September, practiced sparingly last week, but started against the Patriots, and provided a boost to the Colts' run defense.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.