Colts Left Tackle Anthony Castonzo Optimistic To Return

Team's best offensive lineman anxious to play Sunday against Houston after missing past three games with a left knee sprain.

He still has to prove the left knee is sound, but Indianapolis Colts offensive left tackle Anthony Castonzo sounds like he's ready to re-join his teammates for Sunday's all-important AFC South Division clash against the Houston Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Castonzo said Monday the original timetable for his return was last week against Jacksonville, a 51-16 road loss. So the Colts' best offensive lineman is even more anxious to play against the Texans, who have the same 6-7 record and share the division lead. The winner has the inside track to a division title and playoff berth. The loser will need help in the final two regular-season games to pull that off.

If Castonzo is cleared to practice, that means he'll consider himself good to go.

"I’m not going to put myself out there if I’m not confident on the knee," he said. "Essentially, if I’m not good to go when I go out there just because I’m trying to be a tough guy, I’ll actually hurt the team. I’m going to make sure that I’m ready to go. I’ll have a conversation with the trainers. If I go out there, I’m ready to go.”

He's missed the past three games, the first time that's happened since sitting out four games as a rookie. They're the only games he's missed since his sophomore year in high school.

"It makes you appreciate it more, for sure," he said. "You kind of get into a groove out there, where you’re just like coming to work every day, do what you’ve got to do to get ready for Sunday and it becomes very methodical. But not playing, you kind of remember how much you love the game, not even being able to practice, you know?”

Just before the start of the season, Castonzo was locked up to a long-term contract extension, a four-year deal for about $43 million.

The Colts have lost back-to-back games by 35 points, the offense failed to score a touchdown at Jacksonville and quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Matt Hasselbeck are both on the mend. Head coach Chuck Pagano said Monday he expects Hasselbeck, the 40-year-old backup, to be available despite dealing with rib and neck injuries suffered two weeks ago at Pittsburgh and aggravated at Jacksonville.

The two-time defending division champions are trying to make the postseason for a fourth consecutive season.

Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.

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