Super Bowl game plans near the end

The Saints and Colts had differing views on their practice routines late this week, but each of them were nearing the end of their prep time.

FT. LAUDERDALE - Saints coach Sean Payton said about 85 percent of the game plan for Sunday's game was in place before Thursday's practice at the University of Miami, and then cut the session 20 minutes short from the previous day.

The Saints removed their shoulder pads for shells for the final 40 minutes. By contrast, Colts coach Jim Caldwell said virtually of his team's gameplan was in place last week and Indianapolis won't practice in pads all week.

"We're in the second week now and we can do that," Payton said of shortening practice in temperatures around 80 degrees. "It was a little warm out here. 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."

Caldwell said the Colts weren't "as sharp as we'd like to be," during their practice at the Miami Dolphins' practice facility in Davie, Fla. But quarterback Peyton Manning was very accurate in working the two-minute offense against the scout team.

"If you watch us practice, the thing you notice with Peyton is the ball is not on the ground very often," said Caldwell. "The way he threw today was typical Peyton.''

INJURY WATCH

Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney said his injured right ankle is "still day-to-day. ... I'm just feeling it out. It's starting to feel a little better and it is starting to look more like an ankle now.

"The swelling is going down," he said. "I have yet to test it huge as in a big confidence booster as in sprinting or anything like that. That will probably come maybe Friday or Saturday at some point. That will give me an indication of where I am at, but I know I am moving in the right direction and that is all can ask. It is a balancing act here. You don't want to go too hard too early. You have to make sure everything is right and safe before you go out there."

Left guard Ryan Lilja also sat out Thursday's session with a back injury, but Caldwell said," I suspect he'll be ready to play."

The only Saints player to sit out practice was running back Lynell Hamilton, who did some jogging on his injured left ankle.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

While the skill players on the Saints' offense got the accolades for leading the NFL in total yards and scoring this season, one long-overshadowed group had a lot to do with getting the team to its first Super Bowl.

But the offensive line, which had three Pro Bowl picks and an alternate among its five members this season, was in the spotlight for most of the week during Super Bowl XLIV interviews.

Their good work was rewarded Wednesday when tackles Jermon Bushrod and Jon Stinchcomb, center Jonathan Goodwin, and guards Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks were chosen as the winner of the inaugural Madden Most Valuable Protectors Award.

The award recognized the top all-around offensive line in the league. The Saints, who allowed just 20 sacks all season, won the award over Tennessee, Philadelphia, the New York Jets and Indianapolis, who they'll meet in Super Bowl XLIV on Sunday night.

The surprising thing about the makeup of the unit is that there is one second-round draft pick (Stinchcomb), two fourth-rounders (Bushrod and Evans) and two fifth-round selections (Nicks and Goodwin).

Stinchcomb and Evans, an All-Pro, were primary Pro Bowl picks, while Goodwin made it as an alternate. Nicks was a second alternate.

"We're a tight-knit group. We all work well together and everybody gets along," Goodwin said. "We've just been a bunch of no-name guys who've turned out to be pretty good players."

The no-names are now considered to be among the best in the league, thanks to an offense that led the league in scoring and total yards and ranked sixth in rushing during the Saints' historic run to Super Bowl XLIV.

"That's a good award and an award for the whole offense, really, just like any other award," Saints offensive line coach Aaron Kromer said. "Drew avoids sacks. The offensive line does a nice job protecting, the running backs do a nice job pass protecting, and Drew gets it out.

"The receivers understand the timing of routes, so it's the whole offense. That goes from (coach) Sean Payton down to the last guy on offense."

NOTES

  • RB Lynell Hamilton, who plays primarily on special teams, did not work for the second straight day Thursday, but did some light jogging on the side. His availability for Super Bowl XLIV was not known and he was listed as questionable on Friday. Everyone else for the Saints is probable.


    INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

    Raheem Brock is keenly aware that when Sunday evening rolls around, he'll most likely be one of the closest watched players in recent Super Bowl history.

    With defensive end Dwight Freeney's availability for Super Bowl XLIV in doubt thanks (listed as questionable) to a torn ligament in his right ankle, it looks like Brock and Robert Mathis will be in the starting lineup against the New Orleans Saints.

    But it's a role that he is familiar with. Earlier this season, with Freeney nursing a strained groin that kept him out of the lineup for a couple of weeks, it was Brock moving into the Colts' starting defensive lineup.

    "Yeah I mean we've been through this before from earlier in the season where Dwight's not playing and me and Rob (Mathis) are starting, (with) the rest of the young guys stepping up and playing a little bit more. We're not worried. We've been through it before," he said.

    "You can't replace Dwight, but we still want to get to the quarterback like we do."

    Even before earlier this season, being in the starting lineup is nothing new to Brock. He has started both at defensive end and at defensive tackle. It's his versatility to play in several spots along the Colts' defensive line that has made him a valuable contributor.

    "I jump around everywhere. A lot of the (Colts) young guys will have to step up with the blitzes that we run. I could be a linebacker and one of the young guys could be an end or vice-versa. I think I might get a couple more (playing time) but not that many (more) rushes at end," Brock said, adding that practices in Florida haven't been all that different from what Indianapolis did back at their own training facility last week.

    "It hasn't been that different for us (and) me. (Freeney) doesn't play much on first and second down (so) the only thing different is I might play a little more of left end on third down. We run so many defenses and blitzes on third down that it might not even change that much where we need to worry about it."

    Again, it's the ability of the Colts to be able to plug different players into various spots that could help offset Freeney's injury.

    "It's great for our defense. It helps the defense a lot when a lot of guys can rotate around. We've got guys dropping or blitzing and moving to different positions. We have a lot of ends that can play defensive tackle," he explained.

    "It just helps our defense overall to where you don't know what we're doing or you don't know where we're coming from. The defense that (defensive coordinator Larry) Coyer put in this year has helped us out a lot."

    NOTES

  • DE Dwight Freeney (right ankle) did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. He was listed as questionable Friday.

  • CB Jerraud Powers (foot) did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. While he would like to play Sunday against the Saints, he will most likely be a game-time decision and was listed as questionable.

  • The rest of the Colts are listed as probable.



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