INDIANAPOLIS — Tony Dungy doesn’t like to make a big deal out of injuries, no matter who the player is.
Quarterback Peyton Manning, wide receiver Marvin Harrison, center Jeff Saturday, tight end Dallas Clark, defensive end Dwight Freeney and, yes, strong safety Bob Sanders. According to the Colts coach, it really doesn’t matter. No problem, next man up.
Team president Bill Polian announced Tuesday during the taping of his weekly television show — and confirmed on Wednesday by Dungy — that Sanders, the reigning NFL “Defensive Player of the Year,” would be sidelined for four to six weeks with a high sprain of his right ankle. He will also have arthroscopic cleanup work done on one of his knees .
As he talked about Sanders’ injury, the Colts coach stressed the importance of the next defensive back in line stepping up and being ready to play. In this case, it will be second-year safety Melvin Bullitt taking over as the starter at strong safety for the Indianapolis Colts when they face Jacksonville Sunday (4:15 p.m.) at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“Bob Sanders has a high ankle sprain. It’s kind of similar to [wide receiver] Roy Hall. Roy had a [hamstring] injury that was going to keep him out a couple of weeks and he ended up getting his knee scoped during that time. Hopefully we’ll have Roy back and full ready to go after [next week’s] bye,” Dungy said.
“I know Bob was going to consult with our doctors and with a second opinion doctor on whether he should get his knee scoped or not while he’s going to be out. He’s going to miss some time with a high ankle sprain. How much that is, we’ll have to see.”
The Colts coach said if Sanders goes ahead and has his knee scoped, it wouldn’t keep him out any longer than the high ankle sprain.
“I think that’s kind of what [team doctors] are looking at. How long is he realistically going to be out with this high ankle sprain and if he is going to miss two or three weeks, then it would make sense to go ahead and have the knee surgery. If not, he could play. He’s played on [the knee], so we’ll see what happens,” Dungy said.
So now the spotlight is on Bullitt, who took over at strong safety in the fourth quarter of last week’s game with the Vikings. The former Texas A&M; standout has worked with the first-team defense the last two years, filling in on those days when Sanders was given the day off to rest old injuries.
Matt Giordano is also a possibility, although Bullitt is the most likely replacement this week.
“It’s probably going to be Melvin Bullitt. Melvin played the fourth quarter of the game [against Minnesota] and did a good job in there. Did a nice job and we actually played a little bit better [when Bullitt was in the game] from a team effort. I don’t know that Melvin played better than Bob did, but we stopped [Vikings running back Adrian] Peterson a little bit better in that fourth quarter,” the Colts coach said.
“Melvin’s a tough guy. He’s got athleticism and he’s smart. He’s learning his game and he’ll do a good job.”
• Injury update — Jeff Saturday (knee) practiced Wednesday and has a chance of returning to the starting lineup against the Jaguars.
Saturday suffered a torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee during a preseason game with Buffalo on Aug. 24. He has been practicing the last two weeks, but has been inactive for the Chicago and Minnesota games. A final decision on his availability for the Jacksonville game, though, won’t be made until later in the week.
If Saturday returns, the question remains as to what the Colts would do with some of their other offensive line positions. Offensive tackle Tony Ugoh (groin) did not practice Wednesday and probably won’t be available for Sunday.
“I don’t know. We’ll look at all that. Jamey [Richard] has practiced more at center, but he did a fantastic job in the two [regular season] games that he played. He played really well. So if Jeff is back, [Richard] will get some work at guard and we’ll see what happens,” Dungy said.
Also sitting out Wednesday, in addition to Ugoh, were running back Joseph Addai (rest), defensive tackle Keyunta Dawson (ankle), defensive end Dwight Freeney (rest), wide receiver Roy Hall (knee), cornerback Tim Jennings (rest), defensive tackle Daniel Muir (knee), offensive guard Mike Pollak (knee), and tight end Jacob Tamme (ankle).
Hall, Pollak and Tamme are not expected to play this week. Tight end Dallas Clark (knee), meanwhile, returned to a full practice on Wednesday and has a chance to start against the Jaguars.
“I feel great. I feel pretty confident with it. It feels strong, feels stable. I think it’s looking good. But I don’t want to say anything because I haven’t gone out there and practiced with the guys and actually had contact,” Clark said before Wednesday’s workout.
“[Practice] is going to tell a lot, so I’m excited to see what happens. Hopefully I’ll be able to make it through and [the knee] doesn’t get any more sore. I’m feeling positive about it. I’ve got to be 100 percent if I go out there. I don’t want to hurt myself any more or hurt the team.”
INDIANAPOLIS — Tony Dungy doesn’t like to make a big deal out of injuries, no matter who the player is.
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