Jeff Saturday hopes to play in opener

INDIANAPOLIS -- Jeff Saturday spent Tuesday night walking around, signing autographs at Woodland Bowl.

It was just the sight Peyton Manning was hoping to see at his annual bowling tournament.

The four-time Pro Bowl center returned to practice for the first time since Aug. 20, and several hours later said he could be ready to start the season-opener Sept. 12 at Houston.

"I'd hope so," Saturday said during Manning's annual bowling tournament. "That's the goal, but we'll have to see how the knee responds."

Saturday did only limited work at practice Tuesday -- his first action since having arthroscopic surgery to remove a "loose body." The Colts have not said which knee he hurt, and coach Jim Caldwell never established a timetable for Saturday's return.

Team owner Jim Irsay later said Saturday would miss two to six weeks.

The Colts certainly would like to have him back in the lineup after their preseason struggles.

Last week at Green Bay, Joseph Addai opened the game with a 49-yard run. After that, the Colts ran 19 times for 32 yards -- 1.7 yards per carry. Manning also found himself under more duress than usual against a Packers defense that was missing two of its best players, linebacker Clay Matthews and cornerback Al Harris.

Part of Indy's struggles can be linked to injuries.

Saturday and left tackle Charlie Johnson have missed all three games with a sprained right foot, and right guard Kyle DeVan has been slowed by a hamstring injury though he has continued to practice.

Saturday's return could help with the solution.

"Jeff has really worked to get back to practice this week; that was a major goal," Manning said at a tourney that raises money for his charitable foundation, the Peyback Foundation. "We all know how important he is to the team. Jamey [Richard] has done a heck of a job a couple of times when Jeff's been out, but I'm sure guys like Ryan and Kyle would like to have a familiar voice back in there. It's always kind of calming, especially in a hostile environment like Houston."

He's just as important to Manning, too.

Saturday has nearly as many Pro Bowl selections (four) as games missed (six) since he won the starting in 2000, and he's the second-longest tenured Colt -- behind Manning.

But Saturday is not yet 100 percent. There is no guarantee he will be when the Colts play at Houston.

"It was good [to practice], but I'm not back yet," Saturday said. "I'm still working toward that. It's progressing, and I'm working as hard as I can. We've still got nine or 10 days to go, so we'll see."

Manning also said he believes the NFL will make some adjustments regarding the positioning of umpires, something he complained about after last week's preseason game. The Colts were called twice for illegal snaps because Manning wanted the ball before the umpire got back into position.

The four-time league MVP did not elaborate on what would change.

Manning's bowling tourney has raised more than $2 million in seven years and is expected to bring in more than $300,000 this year, too.

Among the celebrities who bowled at this year's event were former NFL stars Kurt Warner, Jerome Bettis and Franco Harris; race-car drivers John and Marco Andretti; former Pacers star Reggie Miller and first-round NBA draft pick Gordon Hayward; college basketball coaches Tom Crean, Matt Painter and Brad Stevens; former Purdue coach Gene Keady; Manning's wife, Ashley; his father, Archie and more than a dozen of Manning's teammates.