FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Dwight Freeney's
injured ankle is "really bad" and could keep him out of the Super Bowl,
a person close to the All-Pro defensive end told The Associated Press
in an e-mail Sunday night.
The person requested anonymity because the
information differed from what the Indianapolis Colts said earlier in
the day. The team insisted that Freeney has a low ankle sprain and
remains questionable for the game against the New Orleans Saints.
"He is under the care of our athletic training
staff," Colts spokesman Craig Kelley said. "Nothing we have seen
changes our diagnosis that he is questionable. He has a third-degree,
low basketball sprain."
Earlier Sunday, ESPN.com reported that Freeney
had torn a ligament, which would make it "difficult" for Freeney to
play Sunday against New Orleans.
The pass rusher has 13 1/2 sacks, the sixth time in eight NFL seasons he's had at least 10.
The Colts have been concerned about Freeney
since the former league sacks champion hurt his right ankle with about
2 minutes left in last week's AFC championship game. He pulled up short
of New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez on a pass rush, hopped for a
couple of steps and then limped off the field.
Trainers initially wanted to put Freeney's
foot in a walking boot, but he didn't wear it after the Colts' 30-17
victory. Freeney did not practice Wednesday, Thursday or Friday and has
not been available to reporters since the game.
"Dwight is one of our best players, we know
that," Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said Sunday night during the
Pro Bowl. "But all season long Coach Caldwell has talked about picking
up the bayonet. Someone's got to step up. If Dwight were not to be able
to go that would be tough, but somebody else will step up and we'll
feel confident in whoever that is."
On Monday, team president Bill Polian told
radio listeners he expected Freeney to play against the Saints.
Caldwell didn't sound as optimistic early in the week, noting that
starting cornerback Jerraud Powers was further along in his recovery
from a foot injury than Freeney.
By Friday, Caldwell appeared to be on the same page with Polian.
"He's coming along well, he's getting better and we're hoping for the best," Caldwell said before Friday's practice.
Even if he can play, Freeney's effectiveness could still be an issue.
Freeney uses his incredible speed, remarkable
spin moves and leverage to attack opponents. If he's not 100 percent,
it would limit what he can do in the biggest game of the season.
But Freeney also has a history of healing
fast, including earlier this season, when he returned seven days after
hurting his quadriceps — an injury that some reports said would keep
him out up to three weeks. That was in late September.
Freeney did not miss a game until Nov. 29 at
Houston, when he sat out with an abdominal injury. The only other game
he missed this season was the regular-season finale at Buffalo, when
most Indy starters played sparingly or not at all.
"He has had injuries before where they said
(he's) not going to play and he has come back," Colts tight end Dallas
Clark said during the Pro Bowl. "He is a competitor, he is one of the
toughest guys on our team and I never expect him to miss anything."