Player Notes and Quotes: July 24

Is Bob Sanders due for a huge year in 2009? How does Peyton Manning feel about Jim Caldwell's regime in Indianapolis? Are Philip Wheeler and Pierre Garcon ready to break into the everyday lineup? How is Reggie Wayne adjusting to his role as the team's undisputed top receiver? Find out inside ...

— If form continues to hold true, SS Bob Sanders is due for a big season in 2009. The oft-injured but hard-tackling strong safety has made it something of an annual event: see limited playing time one season only to return the next year like gangbusters.


Sanders should have a big year if fully healthy
AP Photo

He was sidelined for 10 of the team's 16 regular-season games a year ago due to surgery on his right knee and also had some clean-up work done to one of his shoulders. The former NFL Defensive Player of the Year has missed 35 of a possible 80 regular-season games because of injury during his five-year career.

That being said, Sanders is expected to be in prime condition heading into this year's training camp.

"I feel good," he said recently. "Basically that's all I'm going to say. My soul is good and I'm in good spirits. I'm doing all right."

— QB Peyton Manning doesn't have a problem with coach Jim Caldwell's decision to start using a seating chart during team and positional meetings.

"I don't have a problem with that. I'm right there next to (quarterbacks coach) Frank Reich and Jim Sorgi and the other quarterbacks. Anytime you have a new head coach there are going to be certain changes. This is my third NFL head coach, and I've always believed that you buy into the system," Manning said.

"As a leader, a veteran player, he's putting a lot of trust in the veteran players, like Reggie (Wayne), Jeff Saturday, Gary Brackett, Dwight Freeney and myself. I have no problem with it."

— OLB Philip Wheeler is slotted to begin training camp as the Colts' starter at strong side linebacker. But nothing is written in stone just yet. However, the hard-charging linebacker has made quite an impression with the Indianapolis coaching staff thanks to his skills as a tackler and pass defender.

"Philip has size, strength and speed. Those are all the things that certainly will contribute to being able to function at the position pretty well. He has to learn the system and get a good feel for it," coach Jim Caldwell said recently. "He hasn't played a whole lot so the experience factor is something we're going to have to make certain he gets enough reps through the preseason and also during this time of the year."

— WR Pierre Garcon: Is the speedy second-year wide receiver from Mount Union (Ohio) College ready to move into the starting lineup? That remains to be seen.

But one thing seems to be fairly certain. He appears to be the early frontrunner in the battle to replace Marvin Harrison, the franchise's all-time leading receiver.

Garcon saw limited work as a rookie, mostly in a backup role on offense as well as being used to return punts and kickoffs. He had only four catches in 2009 for a paltry 23 yards.

But the Colts coaching staff, particularly first-year head coach Jim Caldwell, noticed his rapid improvement during the team's spring organized team activities and minicamps. Most notable was his consistency in catching the football and in his route running.

"You can really see him starting to run and not just react. He's become somewhat of a force. Now, he hasn't arrived yet, let's not get ahead of ourselves. But he has made good progress," Caldwell said. "Around here we've had a pretty high level in terms of what we expect in standards for those guys that play that position. We've had some really fine ones over the years, but he looks like he's headed in the right direction."

— WR Reggie Wayne has accepted his role as the team's No. 1 receiver with pretty much his patented laid-back attitude.

After all, in recent years the Colts' tandem of Marvin Harrison and Wayne was one of the NFL's premier receiving duos. It was Harrison No. 1 with Wayne very close behind.


Wayne says he's in the best shape of his career heading into the season
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

In fact, the former University of Miami standout led the Colts in receiving as he hauled in 87 passes for 1,145 yards and six touchdowns. Now with Harrison gone from the picture, Wayne is more than prepared to show that he is more than ready to carry even more of the team's receiving load.

"I'm going to approach it the same, nothing is going to change on my end. The only thing (is) I have to make sure I'm ready. Healthy and ready. I'm definitely that right now. I know they're (the defense) going to be keying on me and that's what it's all about. That's when I hope my teammates can help me out a little bit," he said recently.

One thing is certain. He expects to arrive at training camp in the best shape, physically, of his NFL career. And that's certainly saying something, considering that Wayne is annually one of the best conditioned players on the Colts' roster.

"Yes, I've been grinding. I've been getting it. I'm down at the University of Miami. Normally, it's 5:30 every morning, but I've moved it a little further, so now it's 6:30 every morning," he said.

— CB T.J. Rushing missed the 2008 season after suffering a knee injury in training camp. Rushing, though, is expected to make a strong push at winning back his jobs as the Colts' primary punt and kickoff returner.

"I certainly do. I probably sound like a broken record, but he's the kind of guy that is putting in good plays. There are passionate guys who love this game who will find a way to get better and get better quickly, and I think that T.J. is certainly going to do that." coach Jim Caldwell said.


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