By Tom James
FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. — Raheem Brock is keenly aware that, when Sunday evening rolls around, he’ll most likely be one of the closest watched players in recent Super Bowl history.
With defensive end Dwight Freeney’s availability for Super Bowl XLIV in doubt, thanks to a torn ligament in his right ankle, it looks like Brock and Robert Mathis will be in the starting lineup against the New Orleans Saints.
But its a role that he is familiar with. Earlier this season, with Freeney nursing a strained groin that kept him out of the lineup for a couple of weeks, it was Brock moving into the Colts’ starting defensive lineup.
“Yeah I mean we’ve been through this before from earlier in the season where Dwight’s not playing and me and Rob [Mathis] are starting, [with] the rest of the young guys stepping up and playing a little bit more. We’re not worried. We’ve been through it before,” he said Wednesday.
“You can’t replace Dwight, but we still want to get to the quarterback like we do.”
Even before earlier this season, being in the starting lineup is nothing new to Brock. He has started both at defensive end and at defensive tackle. It’s his versatility to play in several spots along the Colts’ defensive line that has made him a valuable contributor.
“I jump around everywhere. A lot of the [Colts] young guys will have to step up with the blitzes that we run. I could be a linebacker and one of the young guys could be an end or vice-versa. I think I might get a couple more [playing time] but not that many [more] rushes at end,” Brock said, adding that practices in Florida haven’t been all that different from what Indianapolis did back at their own training facility last week.
“It hasn’t been that different for us [and] me. [Freeney] doesn’t play much on first and second down [so] the only thing different is I might play a little more of left end on third down. We run so many defenses and blitzes on third down that it might not even change that much where we need to worry about it.”
Again, its the ability of the Colts to be able to plug different players into various spots that could help offset Freeney’s injury.
“It’s great for our defense. It helps the defense a lot when a lot of guys can rotate around. We’ve got guys dropping or blitzing and moving to different positions. We have a lot of ends that can play defensive tackle,” he explained.
“It helps our defense overall to where you don’t know what we’re doing or you don’t know where we’re coming from. The defense that [defensive coordinator Larry] Coyer put in this year has helped us out a lot.”
n Jackson, Gonzalez looking ahead to next year — Cornerback Marlin Jackson and wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez are on the outside looking in during this week’s Super Bowl workouts.
Jackson has been sidelined since midseason with a knee injury. Gonzalez, meanwhile, also incurred a knee injury in the Colts’ regular-season opener with Jacksonville.
“It’s tough, watching everybody practice and getting ready for the game,” Jackson said Wednesday. “My knee is getting better. I’ve been rehabbing it and I’ll be fine heading into next year. I’d love to be out there playing. Who wouldn’t? It’s been frustrating, getting hurt the last two seasons. But I’ve got to move on and just concentrate on getting better for next season.”
Heading into the offseason, when he becomes a free agent, he fully expects to be back with Indianapolis in 2010.
“From everything that I’ve been told, everything I’ve heard, they want me back. They want me here with the Colts. So that’s all I can go on,” Jackson said.
As for Gonzalez, having to sit out a year in which he was supposed to take over for former Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison has especially frustrating.
“I should be ready to go when the offseason conditioning program gets started,” he said. “The rehab has come along fine. I wish that I could be out there practicing and playing. But that isn’t the case.”
Indianapolis’ first round draft pick in 2007, Gonzalez has been forced to watch the quick development of younger receivers Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie this season.
“They’ve played well. Austin has just gotten better every week. He has just really caught on to the offense and he’s playing really well right now. Pierre is such a physical receiver. He’s really played well this year,” he said.
n Injury list — Sitting out Wednesday’s practice were Freeney and rookie cornerback Jerraud Powers (foot).
The rest of the Colts’ injury list included running back Joseph Addai (shoulder), safety Antoine Bethea (back), middle linebacker Gary Brackett (knee), rookie running back Donald Brown (foot), safety Melvin Bullitt (knee), offensive tackle Ryan Diem (knee), safety Aaron Francisco (hand), running back Mike Hart (ankle), defensive tackle Antonio Johnson (shoulder), offensive tackle Charlie Johnson (foot), defensive end Robert Mathis (shoulder), offensive guard Jamey Richard (shoulder), placekicker Matt Stover (left calf), tight end Jacob Tamme (ankle), offensive tackle Tony Ugoh (knee), placekicker Adam Vinatieri (right hip), and wide receiver Reggie Wayne (knee).
New Orleans’ injury list consisted of running back Lynell Hamilton (ankle), who did not practice. Cornerback Randall Gay (foot), cornerback Malcolm Jenkins (hamstring), defensive end Bobby McCray (back/ankle), safety Pierson Prioleau (quad), wide receiver/kick returner Courtney Roby (knee), safety Darren Sharper (knee), tight end Jeremy Shockey (knee), defensive end Will Smith (groin), offensive tackle Zach Strief (shoulder), and middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee) all saw limited work.