The hope is that Dwight Freeney will play in Sunday’s Super Bowl for the Indianapolis Colts.
The plan is to play the game without him.
After Freeney missed all four practices last week, coach Jim Caldwell said Monday the team was preparing to play without the injured All-Pro defensive end.
“He hasn’t been practicing, so if he’s not practicing, we are preparing to not have him,” Caldwell told reporters after arriving in South Florida. “If he can’t go, we’ll do some rotations, and Raheem (Brock) will be a big part of that.”
Freeney is listed as questionable on the team’s injury report with a sprained right ankle. Caldwell reiterated the team’s position, saying Freeney has a third-degree, low-ankle sprain and is improving.
A week after team president Bill Polian said Freeney would play, he now says the player’s chance of seeing action was 50-50.
One report indicated Freeney had torn a ligament and a source close to Freeney told The Associated Press on Sunday that the ankle was “really bad.”
However, the Colts remain optimistic.
“I’m very hopeful he will play,” quarterback Peyton Manning said. “He has special characteristics about him and I’m counting on those this week.”
Freeney also has a penchant for disproving conventional wisdom. From the moment the Colts drafted him with the No. 11 pick in 2002, some criticized the team for reaching on a player that had been described as a situational pass rusher. Freeney came off the bench for the first eight games his rookie season and finished with 13 sacks. He became the first Indy player to win the league sacks title in 2004, with 16, and has produced at least 10 sacks in six of eight NFL seasons.
Freeney has a rare combination of speed, leverage and uncanny spin moves, which makes life difficult for opponents.
That’s why the Saints would prefer seeing as little of the five-time Pro Bowl player as possible.
“Obviously, Dwight Freeney is a great player. Obviously, we would love for him not to play in the game,” New Orleans running back Reggie Bush said. “But we’re going to prepare like he’s playing in the game. We’re going to continue to chip block. We’re going to continue to do whatever we can to keep the pressure off.”
Freeney’s teammates understand how big a blow Freeney’s absence could be.
They are also convinced that Brock, an eight-year veteran who has been a key part in Indy’s expanded blitz packages this season, would be a capable replacement.
“Of course you hope he’ll be out there. You want to look to your right and see Dwight,” defensive tackle Daniel Muir said. “Even with Dwight not out there, though, we’ve had success. It’s next man up. If he can’t go, we’ve got to pick up the bayonet and go.”
Can I get your bags, sir?
Sean Payton had taken a few pages from the playbook of the late coaching great Bill Walsh before.
Not quite like this, though.
Ever focused on the mood of his players, the Saints’ head coach kicked off Super Bowl week by donning a bellhop uniform and helping with luggage when the team bus showed up at its downtown Miami hotel on Monday.
Drew Brees and the Saints’ six other Pro Bowl players joined him, hoping to ease whatever tension accompanied the Saints on the first Super Bowl trip in the club’s 43-year history.
“You never lose track of the job you have and for about a half hour today those Pro Bowl players, I thought, earned some pretty good tips here with our players getting off the buses and handling the luggage,” Payton said, his eyes twinkling while he otherwise continued to speak in his typical wooden tone. “We’re always wanting to steal a pretty good idea. I think Bill Walsh, a long time ago, had a pretty good idea and we just kind of took it like one of his offensive plays and ran with it.”
When Walsh coached the 1981 San Francisco 49ers to the first of their five Super Bowls victories, he did essentially the same thing.
The Joe Montana-led Niners beat Cincinnati, 26-21.
Leave those umbrellas home
Football fans take note – umbrellas are out for the big game on Sunday.
For that matter, so are fireworks, beach balls and flying discs.
Other items prohibited in Sun Life Stadium on Super Bowl Sunday included backpacks, strollers, laser pointers and coolers, according to information released Monday. Bottles and cans were on the banned list, as were camcorders, pepper spray, horns, poles and sticks.
“The message is, for the fans, please be patient with us,” Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti said. “We’re just looking out for your safety. Because as we’ve heard before, we have to be successful 100 percent of the time, the bad guys only have to get lucky once.”
Camera and binocular cases also won’t be allowed, either.
Security, security, security
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, in town to tour the Super Bowl stadium, downplayed the impact of the failed bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner on the game’s security plans.
“I don’t think the Christmas Day attempted bombing has had effect,” Napolitano said. “These plans have been in place for several years. And they keep getting worked and refined the closer you get to the game. But the event in Detroit had no direct impact.”