By Tom James
TERRE HAUTE — It makes sense that Bob Sanders is tired of talking about his recent medical history. Can anybody blame him? After all, the Indianapolis Colts strong safety has missed 35 out of a possible 80 games over his five-year National Football League career to knee, shoulder and foot injuries.
In fact, when it comes to that one specific topic, Sanders has decided that he is all talked out for the moment. For the time being, he’d prefer that first-year Colts head coach Jim Caldwell handle any and all questions related to his availability as the 2009 season progresses.
The usually affable Erie, Pa., native would much rather spend his energy working to get back on the practice field as soon as possible. And that’s what he plans to do over the remaining two weeks of training camp.
Sanders is currently on the Colts’ physically unable to perform list after undergoing knee surgery during the offseason. However, he is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season Sept. 13 when Indianapolis takes on AFC South rival Jacksonville at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“He’s making real good progress. We certainly feel he’s doing everything he can to get back. He’s working extremely hard, he’s keeping himself in it mentally, and he’s into it in meetings and our practice sessions, doing a little coaching on the side as well,” Caldwell said after Wednesday’s one-hour practice session at Cook Stadium.
“When he’ll be back, I’m not certain, but he’s making real good progress so that’s really all we can depend on right now, is the fact that some point in time he’ll be available.”
And that’s what the 2007 NFL “Defensive Player of the Year” is aiming for.
“I feel OK. This year I’m just going to keep trying to work. And just leave it up to coach [Caldwell] and I’m going to let coach explain the rehab process, the [knee] injury. I’ve been talking about it for so long, I’m going to let coach handle it this year,” Sanders said earlier this week.
Earlier this summer, after one of the Colts’ June minicamps, he explained further.
“I feel good. That’s all I really want to say about that. I feel good. My soul is good, and I’m in good spirits. I’m doing all right,” Sanders said.
His return to the starting defensive lineup could provide Indianapolis with one of the deepest and most talented groups of safeties in the league. Free safety Antoine Bethea starts alongside Sanders — both have started in the Pro Bowl — and they are backed up by Melvin Bullitt, Matt Giordano, and Jamie Silva.
Bullitt filled in admirably for Sanders last season, posting a team-high four interceptions and 69 total tackles. Giordano, meanwhile, was a key member of the Colts’ defensive backfield depth during the team’s Super Bowl run in 2006. Silva spent part of last season on the practice squad but did a good job on both special teams and defense when called upon.
“[We are] very deep and very talented. It’s definitely a good thing for us. It’s great to have one good safety on the team, but when you have three or four different guys who can all play on the same level it’s great. Antonie has done an excellent job. He’s a Pro Bowler. Bullitt is very good and coming along well. We have a lot of other young guys that hope to make this team and prove to everybody that they belong here,” Sanders said.
“It’s great to have those guys around. You just never know when guys are going to get injured and who is going to be playing, and you need those backups to be ready.”
“We have experience. Bullitt has played an extensive amount and Bethea has certainly been around a long time and a quality player for us, Giordano is a guy who is a veteran, and Silva certainly understands our system as well. We have a couple of young guys we’re trying to bring along but I think we’re pretty solid,” the Colts coach said.