INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -Bob Sanders and Dwight Freeney are tired of watching football.
They'd rather be hitting. They also know better.
Sanders, last year's defensive player of the year, and Freeney, a former league sacks champ, have each undergone surgery in the past six months. That prompted doctors to keep both out of this weekend's three-day mandatory minicamp and likely out for the start of training camp.
``It's tough because football players always want to be on the field,'' Sanders said Sunday, the final day of this weekend's minicamp. ``When you're on the field, you can get better. Right now, though, I'm trying to get healthy.''
For the Colts' top two defenders, this has been a challenging offseason.
Freeney spent more than two months off his feet after having surgery on his left foot in November, and Sanders had surgery on his right shoulder before the Super Bowl. While they have been running, neither has been able to practice and may not be able to for several more months.
In Sanders' case, this has become almost an annual ritual.
The Colts' hard-hitting safety missed all of Indy's offseason workouts and training camp in 2004, his rookie season, because of a stress fracture in his right foot. He spent the opening weeks of camp on the sideline each of the past two years after having shoulder surgery. Now, he's facing the same scenario again.
``I definitely want to be out there, but I've got an injury and I've got to respect that,'' said Sanders, who has been lifting weights. ``I've got to be completely healthy, and I want to make sure that when I do come back, I'll be 100 percent.''
It's a different situation for Freeney, who has been nicked up throughout his six-year NFL career and had shoulder surgery in 2005. This is the most serious injury he's faced - and the most grueling recovery period.
``This is by far the worst,'' Freeney said. ``It's something where you wake up in the morning, you feel it, but once you get going it sort of works itself out. It's a process, it's one of those things where you have to understand every week is new and just because it hurts on Tuesday doesn't mean it will hurt on Thursday.''
Freeney said he is running three times per week.
While rehab has been tedious, the most frustrating part for Indy's 2002 first-round pick has been reliving how he got hurt during a November game at San Diego.
``No one really touched me, it was really kind of freakish,'' he said. ``I did a spin move and my foot got caught in the ground. It was raining and I had my longer cleats on in the front and it just got stuck. It rains, I don't know how many days out of the year in San Diego, and I get the rainy day. It was a drought until I got out there.''
The next two months were even worse.
As Freeney was told to stay off his feet, he wound up watching his teammates struggle to pressure opposing quarterbacks without him. The lack of pressure played a big role in the Colts' surprising playoff loss to San Diego, leaving Freeney to ponder what might have been if he could have played.
``It killed me to watch my boys, knowing that I could go out there and help,'' Freeney said. ``Now I'm sitting at home watching TV and screaming at the refs. It killed me.''
Sanders and Freeney aren't the only big-name players who may be restricted when training camp opens July 24 in Terre Haute, Ind.
Eight-time Pro Bowl receiver Marvin Harrison had offseason surgery on his right knee, is recovering from an inflamed capsule in his left knee and has been part of a police investigation into an alleged shooting in his hometown of Philadelphia.
Harrison has not commented on the legal matter, but his agent, Tom Condon, has said Harrison was not involved. The Colts have said they will wait to comment until they get more facts. Harrison also did not practice at minicamp because of injuries.
Freeney expects to be 100 percent by the Sept. 7 season opener against Chicago.
``I've talked to Jason Tuck and Brandon Stokley and they had the same thing,'' Freeney said. ``They said it's a process but you'll break through, and when it's right, you'll be good to go.''
But that hasn't made life any easier for Sanders or Freeney. Both are eager to get back on the field with their teammates and help the Colts win another Super Bowl.
They just have to be patient.
``I'm working out, and I want to get out there,'' Sanders said. ``But I have to do some things first, so I'm kind of hanging back and trying to get healthy. That's what you have to do in this case.''

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