Josh Thomas will move from being a backup for starting left defensive end Robert Mathis to taking over as the starter on the right side, replacing Dwight Freeney in the Indianapolis Colts defensive lineup.

Freeney was due to undergo surgery on his left foot Thursday or sometime today. Out with a LisFranc injury, which he initially incurred in the fourth quarter of last week’s game at San Diego, he will be sidelined for the remainder of the year.

Thomas has spelled both Mathis and Freeney since coming to the Colts as an undrafted free agent from Syracuse four years ago. Now, he’s the man who has been asked to take a more prominent role with Indianapolis. The addition of a veteran defensive lineman like former Tampa Bay and Denver defensive end Simeon Rice will also help.

“Obviously we’ve brought Simeon in. He’s a guy that can rush the passer. And we’ve just got to be creative with who we flip-flop around and try not to give too many people too many reps and keep everyone fresh,” Thomas said Thursday.

“I think I’m going to be starting on the right side, Robert and I. We’ll see how it goes from there. It’s different [from playing on the left side]. But it’s the same moves, the same techniques. You’ve just kind of got to switch them over. Robert has always seen a lot of attention [from opposing teams]. I think he goes under the radar [from fans], but he gets double-teamed just as much. But I think now without Dwight being there, teams are going to find different people to double-team.”

Mathis, though, knows that his workload will almost certainly increase with his running mate done for the year.

“It’s hard to tell right now. It’s still early. We’re in the early stages [of preparations for Sunday’s home game with Kansas City],” he said. “It is what it is. Whatever teams do, we’ll just have to counter it. I’ll have to pick up the slack for [Freeney]. I’ll just do what I do.”

Rice will also get work on the right side, but will be brought along slowly as he becomes acclimated to his new surroundings and his new teammate.

“I think Simeon will come in here and he’s an experienced guy. He understands the defense. I think he obviously has pass rushing skills, 120 some sacks. So hopefully we can get that pressure off the right side and another experience defender who’s been in these kind of situations and been in big games,” Colts coach Tony Dungy said.

As for Thomas moving into a starter’s role, Dungy doesn’t expect to see a whole lot of drop-off in the production of the Indianapolis defense has a whole. Mathis may end up facing some of the double and triple team blocking schemes that confronted Freeney on a regular basis since he first entered the league. But the Colts’ coach thinks that opposing offenses will attack Indianapolis in much the same way as teams have all year long.

“I think a lot of that depends on how Simeon does too. But I think people are going to play us like they always have. I don’t know that we’ll see the chips and the tight ends on our defensive right and the double teams over there. But I don’t think anything will really change for the other guys that might allow people to get more people out in the pass routes. Maybe some deeper passes that our defensive backs will enjoy,” Dungy said.

Injury update — Sitting out Thursday’s practice were offensive tackles Daniel Federkeil (concussion), Charlie Johnson (ankle) and Ryan Diem (ankle); safeties Matt Giordano (hamstring) and Bob Sanders (knee); cornerbacks Tim Jennings (upper leg) and Dante Hughes (shoulder); along with wide receivers Marvin Harrison (knee) and Anthony Gonzalez (thumb).

Tight ends Dallas Clark (concussion) and Bryan Fletcher (calf); offensive tackle Tony Ugoh (neck); defensive tackle Raheem Brock (neck); and weak side linebacker Freddy Keiaho (ear/concussion) all practiced. Strong side linebacker Tyjuan Hagler (neck) saw limited work.

“We did have some guys back [in practice]. Dallas Clark was back. That was good to see. Had a couple of other guys back, but had some guys who didn’t practice. So we’ll see how it goes. You can’t really look at that part of it,” Dungy said, referring to the Colts’ long injury list. “It’s just how practice goes and how our energy level is and our concentration. If that’s good, we’ll be fine.”

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