Colts excited about return of Sanders, Gonzalez

Posted April 23, 2010 @ 9:42 a.m.
Posted By Dan Arkush

Should the Colts end up shooting blanks in this year's draft, which is quite unlikely considering the impressive track record of the team's personnel staff under the direction of team president Bill Polian, they still figure to be on another fast track to a successful season.

Just ask team owner Jim Irsay.

"Getting (SS Bob) Sanders and (WR Anthony) Gonzalez back is like getting two No. 1s," Irsay said at the league owners' meetings in late March. "Along with those two … our star players are still in their prime."

Not counting Sanders, who was limited to two games last season because of knee problems and a ruptured biceps tendon, and Gonzalez, who went down for the season in Week One with a freak knee injury on a play in which he was untouched, all but one of the players who started in Super Bowl XLIV (OLG Ryan Lilja) are expected back.

While daily team observers never can be totally sure considering the veil of secrecy the Colts routinely maintain on the subject of injuries. all indications do indeed point to both Sanders and Gonzalez being completely healthy when training camp opens.

That's particularly good news in the case of Sanders, a two-time Pro Bowler and former league defensive MVP who has missed a whopping 24 games the past two seasons with injuries caused in part, many close to the team believe, by his reckless, lights-out playing style.

There's no denying, though, that it's a style that adds a special dimension to the Colts' defense.

"When Sanders is playing at full speed, there is an electricity that just raises everybody else's game to new heights," one team insider said. "It might be that the way he throws his body around leads to him getting hurt a lot. But as good as Melvin Bullitt has been replacing him, he can't offer that same unique quality. Sanders and (DE Dwight) Freeney are the two guys on the team that really provide a special spark."

Gonzalez gives the Colts an embarrassment of riches at the WR position in 2010 following the impressive coming-out parties of young WRs Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon in his absence.

"He's a more natural slot receiver, but as good as Collie was at that position, it's likely Anthony also will play a lot outside," the insider said. "He has plenty of experience at both positions."


For the most authoritative NFL draft news and free-agency analysis, visit