By Tom James
INDIANAPOLIS — Injuries? What injuries?
After a season in which the Indianapolis Colts had as many as 12 players make the team’s daily practice participation chart/injury list, the team will have only two names — cornerback/kick returner T.J. Rushing and tight end Ben Utecht — on its injury list heading into Sunday’s AFC Divisional Playoff game with the San Diego Chargers. It’s probably the healthiest Indianapolis has been since mid-September.
Rushing missed Wednesday’s practice due to an unspecified illness, but was able to participate in workouts Thursday and Friday. He is listed as probable for the Chargers game and is expected to play this weekend.
Utecht, meanwhile, expects to play against San Diego despite being listed as questionable. He practiced all week with a shoulder injury after he was hurt in Indianapolis’ Dec. 23 home game with Houston. Utecht did not play against Tennessee two weeks ago in the team’s final regular season game.
The rest of the Colts’ lengthy injury list from earlier in the year, which included wide receivers Marvin Harrison (knee) and Anthony Gonzalez (foot), defensive tackle Raheem Brock (rib), defensive end Robert Mathis (knees), safeties Antoine Bethea (knee) and Matt Giordano (concussion), offensive tackle Ryan Diem (knee), along with cornerbacks Tim Jennings (concussion) and Keiwan Ratliff (hamstring), are all expected to be available to play against San Diego.
Colts coach Tony Dungy expects Harrison to start Sunday after sitting out the last 10 games, and 11 of his last 12, with a left knee injury.
“I wouldn’t say definite, but all indications seem like he’s going to be ready to go,” Dungy said Friday. “He’s done fine [in practice this week]. Run all his [pass] routes. And actually taken more [repetitions] than we had probably had scheduled for him. So that’s a good sign.”
Harrison may be on a play count against the Chargers since he has missed so much of the season. Stamina may be an issue later in the game, but the Colts are prepared for that.
“It’s hard [having Harrison on a play count]. We try to do it. It just doesn’t always hold up. So we’ll see,” the Colts coach said.
San Diego, meanwhile, will probably be without tight end Antonio Gates, who suffered a dislocated toe in last week’s AFC wildcard round win over Tennessee. An official decision on Gates’ status is expected to be made prior to Sunday’s game.
“That’s been tough on us. Because obviously they do quite a few things to take advantage of him. He’s an integral part of everything they do [offensively] when he’s there. If he’s not there, we really don’t know what they’re going to feature. We worked on some different things, but we have to go in assuming he’s going to play and then go from there,” Dungy said.
When asked whose presence in Sunday’s game would be more important — Harrison for the Colts or Gates for San Diego — the Colts coach opted to take the easy route with his response.
“I’d like to find that out. I’d like to have Marvin out there and Antonio not be and we’ll see,” he joked. “I think, at this time of the year, both teams, you want to have all your guys. You want to have your quality guys. But if you don’t have them, that’s part of being a good football team. Developing that depth. That’s one of the things that I’ve been proud of our team. We have done that. We have been able to overcome the loss of guys for short periods of time. And I think San Diego will be able to do that also.”