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Colts veteran eager to hit field Sunday

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Dwight Freeney isn’t certain if he’ll be healthy enough to play in what will be an emotional game for the Indian­apolis Colts.

But he knows this much: Sitting out, even for a second, is more than he can stand.

Maybe that’s why he’s a traditionally fast healer.

“I can’t stand it. Half of the time when I get hurt, that’s why you see me with a three-week (projected down-time) injury, I’m back after one week,” said Freeney, who suffered a high left ankle sprain in Week 1 and hasn’t played since. “The sideline, I can never get used to.”

Yet the sideline has been Freeney’s vantage point since going down in the opening minutes of the season-opener at Chicago.

In his regular-season debut at outside linebacker, the seven-time Pro Bowler was injured on the second defensive series and has been out indefinitely.

However, he returned to practice Wednesday and is cautiously optimistic about playing in Sunday’s much-anticipated home game against the Green Bay Packers (2-2).

Apart from hosting one of the NFL’s most prominent teams, which is expected to attract thousands of cheesehead-wearing fans to Lucas Oil Stadium, the Colts (1-2) are coming off a bye week and coping with the tragic news of head coach Chuck Pagano’s battle with leukemia.

Freeney acknowledges his ankle is not 100 percent healthy but hasn’t ruled out trying to play.

“It’s getting there. It’s not there yet,” he said. “With those type of injuries, they kind of linger. I just go out, test it every day and be very optimistic that it’s going to be fine.”

Colts interim head coach Bruce Arians shares Freeney’s cautious optimism about a Sunday return, even in a limited capacity.

“You can’t put words into what he means for our defense, and to have him out there (at practice), I think, just uplifted everybody,” Arians said. “To see what he’s going to do on Sunday would be fantastic.”

Indianapolis’s career sacks leader with 102.5, Freeney — a defensive end for 10 of his 11 NFL seasons — acknowledges that his availability is far from certain. But if there’s any chance of making an appearance, no matter how brief, he plans to give it a try.

“You really start missing it. All the camaraderie and the meetings, not as much, really just being around the players in practice, and definitely the games,” he said. “It’s part of you. Especially being out there for 11 years like I have, it’s all you know.

“You don’t want to see your guys out there without you.”

Robert Mathis, himself a former Pro Bowl defensive end who is in his first season at outside linebacker, expects Freeney to give it a try against Green Bay.

“Can’t keep a good man down,” Mathis said. “So I definitely anticipate him being back out on the field with us.”

Apart from the natural desire to get back on the field, Freeney has added incentive for wanting it to happen Sunday. It will be the Colts’ first game without Pagano, who is expected to be hospitalized for six to eight weeks while undergoing treatment; it’s against one of the NFL’s most prominent teams that is expected to attract thousands of cheesehead-wearing fans to Lucas Oil Stadium; and it’s an opportunity to compete against former Indianapolis center Jeff Saturday, who’s in his first season with the Packers.

The latter is reason enough to want to give it a go.

“That’s going to be interesting. It’s going to be interesting the first time I actually hit him, or he hits me,” Freeney said. “There is definitely going to be something said. That’s another thing where I want to get out there and play against Jeff.

“If it happens, it’ll be special.”

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