Injured knee has kept Clark out five weeks

Updated: December 28, 2006, 7:24 PM ET
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts hope to have tight end Dallas Clark back on the field Sunday for the first time since he injured his knee five weeks ago.

Tight End
Indianapolis Colts

Profile
2006 SEASON STATISTICS
Rec Yds TD Avg Long YAC
26 311 4 12.0 40 120

Clark, wearing a brace on his right knee, practiced Thursday for a second straight day. Coach Tony Dungy said he expected Clark to play against Miami this weekend.

"I think he wants to play and get a few hits before the playoffs," Dungy said. "He's looking forward to it and, as of right now, it looks like he will. We haven't decided exactly how much [playing time] that will be, but definitely don't want to play him the whole game."

Clark has been sidelined for the past four games after suffering a sprained anterior cruciate ligament Nov. 26 against Philadelphia. He had been a key part of the Colts' offense through the first 11 games, with 26 receptions for 311 yards and four touchdowns in his fourth year with Indianapolis.

The Colts (11-4) have been using Ben Utecht and Bryan Fletcher at tight end during Clark's absence. Both have played relatively well, although having Clark back against Miami (6-9) would be a boost heading into the playoffs.

"Practice is intense, but you can't mimic a game-type level," Clark said Thursday. "It will be important to get a couple snaps against real opponents and see how that feels."

Clark said his knee has felt well, but that he planned to keep wearing a brace.

"I feel confident. I wouldn't be out there if there was any chance of reinjuring it or making anything worse," he said. "It responded well, and I'm really excited to be out there. I like how it feels right now."

Dungy said Clark's return this week was the best-case scenario the team could have hoped for after his injury.

"Dallas gives us so much, being able to line up in two tight ends or a three-wide look," Dungy said. "He can block people in the slot. He can run routes from there. He gives us a lot of versatility and almost gives us two guys coming back rather than one. So it will be good to get him in there."

The Colts, meanwhile, saw defensive end Dwight Freeney (shoulder) and running back Dominic Rhodes (ankle) return for Thursday's practice after sitting out Wednesday.

Offensive guard Ryan Lilja (knee) is not expected to play this week after spraining his right knee during last week's loss at Houston. Second-year guard Dylan Gandy, who has started nine games this year, will replace Lilja against the Dolphins.

Wide receivers Ricky Proehl (hamstring) and Aaron Moorehead did not practice Thursday, but Moorehead is expected to play this week. Proehl will probably be a game-time decision.

Among those missing all or part of Thursday's practice were cornerback Kelvin Hayden (concussion), outside linebacker Gilbert Gardner (illness), and defensive back Marlin Jackson (illness).


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press