The Indianapolis Colts insist Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney has a low ankle sprain, not a torn ligament, and that he remains questionable for next weekend’s Super Bowl.
Team spokesman Craig Kelley said Sunday night Freeney was being treated in Florida for a basketball-type injury, nothing more.
“He is under the care of our athletic training staff,” Kelley said. “Nothing we have seen changes our diagnosis that he is questionable. He has a third-degree, low basketball sprain.”
That would appear to be better news than what team president Bill Polian calls the “dreaded” high-ankle sprain, which can keep players out for about six weeks.
Earlier Sunday, ESPN.com reported that Freeney had torn a ligament, which would make it “difficult” for Freeney to play Sunday against New Orleans.
The Colts have been concerned about Freeney since the former league sacks champion injured his right ankle with about 2 minutes left in last week’s AFC championship game. He pulled up short of New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez on a pass rush, hopped for a couple of steps and then limped off the field.
Trainers initially wanted to put Freeney’s foot in a walking boot, but he didn’t wear it after the Colts’ 30-17 victory. Freeney did not practice Wednesday, Thursday or Friday and has not been available to reporters since the game.
“Dwight is one of our best players, we know that,” Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said during the Pro Bowl. “But all season long Coach Caldwell has talked about picking up the bayonet. Someone’s got to step up. If Dwight were not to be able to go that would be tough, but somebody else will step up and we’ll feel confident in whoever that is.”
On Monday, Polian told radio listeners he expected Freeney to play against the Saints. Caldwell didn’t sound as optimistic early in the week, noting that starting cornerback Jerraud Powers was further along in his recovery from a foot injury than Freeney.
By Friday, Caldwell appeared to be on the same page with Polian.
“He’s coming along well, he’s getting better and we’re hoping for the best,” Caldwell said before Friday’s practice.
The bigger issue may be Freeney’s effectiveness.
Freeney uses his incredible speed, remarkable spin moves and leverage to attack opponents. If he’s not 100 percent, it could limit what he can do in the biggest game of the season.
But Freeney also has a history of healing fast, including earlier this season, when he returned seven days after hurting his quadriceps — an injury that some reports said would keep the former league sacks champ out up to three weeks. That was in late September.
Freeney did not miss a game until Nov. 29 at Houston, when he sat out with an abdominal injury. The only other game he missed this season was the regular-season finale at Buffalo when most Indy starters played sparingly or not at all.
He finished this season with 13 1/2 sacks this season, the sixth time in eight NFL seasons Freeney has had at least 10 sacks.
“He has had injuries before where they said (he’s) not going to play and he has come back,” Colts tight end Dallas Clark said during the Pro Bowl. “He is a competitor, he is one of the toughest guys on our team and I never expect him to miss anything.”
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