Colts' Harrison cleared to play, but still game-time decision

INDIANAPOLIS -- Colts doctors have told Pro Bowl receiver Marvin Harrison he can play against New England, and he hopes to.

Whether he actually makes it on the field is up to coach Tony Dungy.

Harrison missed all three practices this week because of a bruised left knee, and Dungy said Harrison and several others are expected to be game-time decisions for the contest between the NFL's final two unbeaten teams.

"Our dilemma is that the doctors thought if he (Harrison) plays, he could have continued issues with it," Dungy said Friday in his final media availability before the game. "If we give him another week off, he probably would not have the same issues down the stretch. But he wants to play."

Who wouldn't want to play in the NFL's game of the year?

But some of the players don't have a choice.

New England placed running back Sammy Morris on injured reserve because of a chest injury Friday, ending his season. Morris was hurt at Dallas.

The questions surrounding Harrison are more complex. He hurt his knee against Denver on Sept. 30. Since then, he has missed two more games and was put on a play count that limited to about only half of the Colts' plays at Jacksonville on Oct. 22.

If Harrison plays against New England (8-0), Dungy said the receiver, listed as questionable, would likely again be on a play count because of soreness.

Later Friday, the Colts denied a report that the 12-year veteran could have persistent pain in the knee not only the rest of this season but for the rest of his career. A message was left on the phone of Harrison's agent, Tom Condon.

"The Indianapolis Colts have received no medical opinion that comes close to validating the report," the team said in a statement.

To compensate for Harrison's absence in previous games, the Colts (7-0) relied more on tight end Dallas Clark and receivers Anthony Gonzalez and Aaron Moorehead.

Moorehead and Gonzalez couldn't say whether they'll fill the same role this week after the Colts uncharacteristically closed all but the stretching exercises to local reporters.

"I'm not sure, we'll see what happens," said Gonzalez, the Colts' first-round draft pick in April. "Marvin is incredible at many things and one of those is healing."

If this was an actual playoff game, instead of merely hyped as a postseason game, Dungy said Harrison probably would play.

"He has played without practice before, and if he does play, I think he'll be pretty effective," Dungy said. "It will have to be a decision that's best for the season and not just best for this game."

Dungy may have some other tough calls, too.

Indy's starting tackles, Tony Ugoh and Ryan Diem, were both limited in practice again Friday. Ugoh didn't practice Thursday because of a neck injury and is questionable. Diem was limited in workouts both Wednesday and Thursday and is probable with a buttock injury.

Left guard Ryan Lilja, who sat out Wednesday and participated in limited drills Thursday, was back on the field Friday for the full workout and is expected to play.

Linebackers Tyjuan Hagler (neck) and Freddy Keiaho (ear) also were limited participants each day this week and are questionable.

Dungy said most of the players considered questionable will be game-time decisions.

"You make adjustments if they don't play and that's what you have to do," Dungy said. "It's not so much about the guys that don't play as it is about the guys who do play."

Defensive end Dwight Freeney, who took Wednesday off, finished all the work Thursday and Friday, while safety Bob Sanders returned to the field Friday after taking his usual day off Thursday. Both are expected to play against the Pats.

New England's injury report includes safety Eugene Wilson (ankle), linebacker Mike Vrabel (shoulder) and tight end Benjamin Watson (shoulder). All are questionable for Sunday's game along with linebacker Eric Alexander (knee) and safety Mel Mitchell (groin). Alexander sat out Friday's workout.

Wilson was a limited in practice Friday after sitting out Wednesday and Thursday. Watson did not practice Friday.

And, quarterback Tom Brady (right shoulder) had his customary place on the report where he is again listed as probable.

Cornerback Asante Samuel, receiver Randy Moss, tight end Kyle Brady and linebacker Adalius Thomas (ankle) all got extra rest in practice this week and are expected to play Sunday.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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