DAVIE, Fla. — Veteran left guard Ryan Lilja missed the second day of the AFC Champion Indianapolis Colts' practice week Thursday with what coach Jim Caldwell called a back injury that he did not think would jeopardize the six-year-veteran's status for Sunday's Super Bowl match against the New Orleans Saints.
"I suspect he'll be ready to play," Caldwell said as night fell in south Florida, after the Colts' two-hour, 15-minute practice that ended under the lights.
The severity of the injury to Lilja, who was one of 20 Colts listed on the injury report, was unclear. Seventeen of those 20 players practiced without restriction Thursday, with only defensive end Dwight Freeney (ankle) and cornerback Jerraud Powers (foot) missing any portion of practice. Both missed the entire workout while receiving treatment inside the Dolphins' practice facility, Caldwell said.
Asked about the health of Freeney and Powers, Caldwell said: "They're both improving rapidly." Freeney said earlier in the day he may try to test his grade-three ankle sprain in Friday's practice or during Saturday's walkthrough.
Caldwell said this was a typical Colts' Thursday practice, though almost all of the team's gameplan was installed last week in Indianapolis. He said the team "wasn't as sharp as we'd like to be," though you couldn't tell by the effectiveness of the first-team offense. In four nickel and two-minute offensive sessions in the last hour of practice, Peyton Manning completed 25 of 28 throws against a crew of Colt backups posing at the Saint scout. His last throw in one of the two-minute sessions was a perfectly thrown rollout to Dallas Clark in the end zone. It was the second straight sharp practice for Manning, prepping for his second Super Bowl start in four seasons.
"If you watch us practice," Caldwell said, "the thing you notice with Peyton is the ball is not on the ground very often. The way he threw today was typical Peyton."
The highlight for the defense was an interception off scout-team quarterback Curtis Painter by linebacker Clint Session on a deflected pass off the hands of backup receiver Hank Baskett. To the cheers of his defensive mates, Session picked the ball off and ran up the left sideline.
For the second straight day, the Colts seemed loose and businesslike on a perfect day for football—71 degrees, mostly sunny with a slight wind from the east. Manning finished the last offensive drive of the day as dusk fell on the complex with a short touchdown strike to Clark.
The Colts resume practice Friday at the Dolphins complex at 2:15 p.m., with a final walk-through tuneup here Saturday. — Peter King
New Orleans Saints
CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Saints coach Sean Payton cut back Thursday's practice about 20 minutes from the previous day and it was by design. He also limited team drills to eight snaps while also interspersing some special teams' work between offense and team defensive work.
"We're in the second week now and we can do that," Payton said. "It was a little warm out here. (Around 80 degrees when practice began.) I think you have to be a little careful; some guys would worry about getting all the plays in. All I was concerned about was getting good work in and we accomplished that."
For the last 40 minutes of practice, the Saints removed their shoulder pads for shells.
Once again, the only key player who didn't participate in practice was running back Lynell Hamilton. However, Hamilton, a stout special teams' player and short-yardage runner, did some jogging on his sore left ankle under the eyes of the training staff.
"He's feeling better," Payton said of Hamilton. "I'm hopeful of him playing."
Once again, the Saints worked on turnover drills where defensive players batted their way through two dummies and then had to cut around a third one before picking up a rolling football. They also used an unusual receivers' drill where a towel is held on a stick high enough that it blocks the player's view of an incoming pass.
"There are a lot of times in a game when a player doesn't have that clear vision when you have to catch a pass in traffic," Payton said. "It's a good ball security drill because there are distractions during a game."
For five minutes at the start of team drills, the sound system at the U. of Miami football fields blared a popular Superdome song during the season by the Ying Yang Twins, "Halftime Stand Up and Get Crunk." The team also had some crowd noise blaring during some drills although Payton is well aware that neither team will have a dome-noise advantage on Sunday. — John Czarnecki
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