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Bob Sanders, last year's defensive player of the year, and three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney were in pads for the first time Tuesday.
Sanders had offseason shoulder surgery for the second straight year, and Freeney hadn't practiced since undergoing season-ending foot surgery in November. The return was a welcome respite for Indy's two defensive leaders, who were limited to personal workouts during the team's training camp in Terre Haute, Ind.
"I should definitely be ready in three weeks," Freeney said. "I think I'm close (to 100 percent). I'm definitely good enough to compete and play."
Freeney said he hadn't missed this much time on a football field since high school.
Sanders, however, has and shown little negative impact from sitting out.
He has missed most of training camp in three of his five NFL seasons, and last year was regularly held out of the Colts' midweek practices. Sanders responded by starting a career-high 15 games and becoming the first Colts' player to win the league's top defensive award.
"It's great to be running around with my teammates instead of standing around wishing you were out there," he said. "Rehabbing is something I'll have to continue to do throughout my career. What's important is to continue to use that time to make sure you're mentally sharp."
Just like Manning, however long it is until he starts throwing touchdown passes.
"This has been a new process for me, and it's not been the most enjoyable process," Manning said. "I can throw. I have been able to keep my arm in shape. I can certainly lift weights with my upper body, and my lower body, so I feel I've been able to stay with my strength level. As far as when, and how much time I need, we'll just have to kind of wait and see."
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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