Sanders was a key figure in the Colts' Super Bowl XLI win over the Chicago Bears, and was credited with helping transform a struggling run defense into a championship unit that season.
The next season, 2007, the Colts led the league in scoring defense, and Sanders — who played in 15 games, a career-high — was recognized as the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year.
He's played in just nine games since, making little more than a cameo in 2009 with just two games played.
Now, he may again be lost for an extended period of time, perhaps for the season, ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting.
The Colts got a steal with Sanders in the 2004 NFL Draft, when they selected him in the second round of the NFL Draft. But if the team got a bargain early in his career, they have gotten very little return on their investment since signing him to a five-year, $37.5 million contract in 2007 that made him the highest-paid safety in the game at the time.
$20 million of that contract was guaranteed, however, and most of that has been paid out, so the question becomes whether it is time for the Colts to thank Sanders for his service and wish him well.
The team has a starter-quality backup in Melvin Bullitt, who, teamed with free safety Antoine Bethea, still gives the Colts one of the top tandems in the league.
Sanders came into the 2010 season with optimism, saying he was as healthy as he had been in years. But he didn't even last into the second half of the team's first game of the season, falling awkwardly while defending a pass near the goal line in Houston.
No official word has come from the Colts, who are typically tight-lipped about injuries. Indianapolis returns to practice Wednesday to prepare for Sunday's game vs. the New York Giants.
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