Colts ready to go after offseason at rehab central

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(Eds: Updates. With AP Photos.)By MICHAEL MAROTAP Sports Writer

Jerraud Powers spent the offseason trying to get healthy along with nearly two dozen teammates.

They couldn't work out at the Colts facility, so the starting cornerback who missed last season's final four games with a broken right forearm, did the next best thing -- he called his buddies and arranged some individual workouts.

Powers figured it was one way the Colts could get back to being themselves this season.

''I talked to Melvin (Bullitt) probably every other day, I talked to (Jacob) Lacey every other day, was in contact with Antoine (Bethea) every other day. A few times we all called each other just to get up and (we) worked out with each other for a few weeks,'' Powers said. ''Everybody stayed in touch, made sure we got together, hung out and did all the things we would have done if it wasn't a lockout.''

The Colts didn't have much choice.

After finishing 2010 with 18 players on injured reserve and a handful more playing through pain to reach the playoffs for a ninth straight year, the injuries finally caught up to Indy in the wild-card round. If the 17-16 loss to the Jets showed the Colts anything, it was this: They needed everyone out of rehab to reach this season's Super Bowl, the first ever held in Indianapolis.

Though one huge question lingers -- whether Peyton Manning (neck) will be ready for the Sept. 11 season opener at Houston -- the Colts are starting to get that look.

Pro Bowl tight end Dallas Clark (right wrist) is catching passes. Bullitt (right shoulder), the new starting safety, is bashing receivers and Powers (forearm and foot) is batting away passes. Even slot receiver Austin Collie (two concussions) looked comfortable going over the middle until he hurt his knee in Saturday's preseason game at St. Louis.

This was the way was supposed to be last fall.

''It was just an odd season with so many injuries,'' Bullitt said. ''It's not something we don't like to talk about, injuries, but it happens and you're hoping it doesn't happen again.''

Longtime Colts president Bill Polian, now the team's vice chairman, insisted that in his three-plus decades in pro football, he'd never seen a rash of injuries quite like Indy's.

Safety Bob Sanders ruptured his biceps in the first quarter of the season opener and didn't play again. Starting linebacker Clint Session missed the final nine games with a dislocated elbow and broken arm. Starting cornerback Kelvin Hayden missed the last four regular-season games with a neck injury. Running back Joseph Addai, Manning's most trusted blitz protector, missed eight games with a nerve injury in his shoulder. Linebacker Gary Brackett, Indy's defensive captain, missed four games because of a groin injury and a turf toe.

And those were just the high-profile starters.

It also meant there was plenty of work to do to get back in shape, though the lockout rules prevented coaches and team doctors from tracking the players' rehab sessions.

''You'd hear tidbits of information, but you didn't have the opportunity to get your hands on,'' coach Jim Caldwell said. ''The difficulty of it was just the fact that you weren't up to date on every single aspect of their physical condition.''

So players took matters into their own hands.

Clark, who had season-ending wrist surgery in October, managed to squeeze in a cameo appearance on CBS' ''Criminal Minds'' between workouts and was cleared for all football activities when practice began Aug. 1.

''I did not want to come out,'' Clark said of last weekend's preseason game. ''But it was so much fun. Just for everything that has gone on since the injury, all the hard work. Everyone that's been part of it. I know it's just the preseason, but it was a small victory and I was happy to be back out there with my teammates.''

Brackett worked out at an Indianapolis sports center with undrafted free agent Darren Evans, whose college career was derailed by a torn ACL in his left knee. Bullitt and Powers did their own thing.

But when the Colts reported to training camp, only two players -- Manning and receiver Blair White -- were put on the physically unable to perform list and only one other player, blocking tight end Brody Eldridge, was not cleared for all football activities.

The biggest question heading into the offseason was whether Collie would recover from the concussions. He hasn't given it a second thought.

''I think that's how it's got to be,'' Collie said. ''The more I dwell on it, the more I think about it, the more it will stay there in my mind and that's the last thing I want when I go across the middle again.''

The much larger question now is Manning, who had neck surgery in May. All indications are that he will be back on the field soon.

Between the team's scheduled practices, he has been spotted throwing and running in Anderson, and while speaking with offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen at Tuesday night's practice, Manning's trademark mannerisms were back.

''What I can tell you is that he's rehabbing extremely well and he's coming along,'' Caldwell said. ''The doctors have him on pace and they'll make the determination at some point when he can get out (and start) doing something for us.''

Until Manning returns, the Colts will not be at full strength.

But they do feel as if they're getting close.

''Once I was clear to go full go, it was back to a regular schedule program for me. I started working out five times a week, back on my diet plan and doing all the things I would have done if it wasn't a lockout,'' Powers said. ''I wanted to make sure that whenever the lockout was over that I can hit day one going full speed rather than catch up. That was sort of my goal this whole offseason and it paid off.''

Tagged: Colts, Peyton Manning, Dallas Clark, Melvin Bullitt, Jerraud Powers, Austin Collie

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