Colts’ best preseason feat may be getting healthy

Indianapolis already has two wins, has kept its last two

opponents out of the end zone and has seen Andrew Luck make steady

progress.

The Colts’ biggest feat this preseason may be simply getting

healthy.

In a preseason rife with injuries, the Colts have so far avoided

taking the big blows and could open the season Sept. 8 against

Oakland at or near full strength.

”Football is a dangerous game and people get hurt, and

fortunately, I’ve been able to skirt those kinds of injuries,”

tight end Coby Fleener said Monday after returning to practice

following a right knee injury.

He’s still waiting to hear whether he’ll play in Thursday

night’s preseason finale at Cincinnati.

Regardless whether Fleener is on the field or not, things

certainly look better in Indy (2-1) than with some of the other AFC

contenders.

Denver, the trendy favorite, has already lost its starting

center for the season, and Wes Welker and Champ Bailey are trying

to get back on the field. Defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore

already lost tight end Dennis Pitta for the season. New England is

still waiting for tight end Rob Gronkowski to get healthy after

having offseason back surgery, Miami tight end Dustin Keller is out

for the season with a right knee injury and Pittsburgh is trying to

sort out its injury-plagued backfield.

It’s not that the Colts (2-1) have avoided taking hits.

Linebacker Pat Angerer, running back Ahmad Bradshaw and

defensive lineman Fili Moala all started training camp on the

physically unable to perform list after offseason surgeries. Pro

Bowl safety LaRon Landry missed more than two weeks with a left

knee injury.

Offensive lineman Hugh Thornton sprained his right ankle in

rookie mini-camp and fourth-round pick Khaled Holmes sustained the

same injury four days into training camp. Tight end Dwayne Allen

(right foot) missed the last two games and Fleener has already had

to contend with a concussion and a right knee injury.

Right guard Mike McGlynn also missed the Cleveland game after

bruising his knee in practice last week, and left tackle Anthony

Castonzo departed Saturday’s game on the opening series with a

sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee.

Five players, including free-agent signee Lawrence Sidbury

(shoulder), have already been put on injured reserve and are gone

for the season.

But somehow, the Colts have minimized their losses.

”They’re working their butts off to get back,” Luck said of

Allen and Fleener. ”I’m sure we’ll see them soon.”

The Colts, coming off an 11-5 season and a nine-game improvement

over 2011, have looked good at full strength.

Angerer, Landry and linebacker Jerrell Freeman all played

against Cleveland, marking the first time Indy’s starting defense

was on the field all preseason. The starting defense allowed only

four first downs, 104 total yards and pitched a shutout against the

Browns for nearly 2 1/2 quarters.

”I’ve been good for a while, it’s just a matter of being

smart,” Angerer said. ”We definitely have the right guys. Our

defensive line is playing tremendous and the guys behind us (the

secondary) are great, but we’re definitely not all there yet.”

Neither is the offense, which has been piecing things together

for the last month.

Luck played most of Saturday’s game without two of his starting

linemen, and with Justice Cunningham and Dominique Jones as the

only tight ends on a roster that was expected to use more

double-tight end formations.

But it looks as if all the missing players could be back for the

opener.

Allen returned to practice last week. McGlynn was walking around

the locker room just fine Monday, a good sign for a player trying

to fend off a challenge for his starting job. Bradshaw is expected

to be full go when the season starts, and Fleener and Holmes are

practicing again. Even Castonzo sounds optimistic.

”It was very good news to hear, that it was kind of a minor

thing and it should not cut into the season,” he said Monday.

”We’re kind of taking day by day, but the goal is to be ready for

Oakland.”

The only real question this week is whether the Colts will play

it safe against Cincinnati.

Coach Chuck Pagano was to meet with his coaching staff later

Monday to make that decision. One thing is clear, though.

”We’ll be smart,” he said. ”I’ll let you know at a later

date.”

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org