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Three veterans miss Colts' voluntary workout, but three return

INDIANAPOLIS -- Anthony Gonzalez, Bob Sanders and Adam Vinatieri were back on the Colts' practice field Thursday.

The defending AFC champions wrapped up their second and final day of a voluntary minicamp by welcoming back three veterans who missed most of last season with injuries -- while three others stayed home.

"We'd love to have them here the entire time, but you have to roll with the punches sometimes," coach Jim Caldwell said. "We're not worried about them."

Two of the absences were expected. The third was excused.

Wayne has traditionally skipped the voluntary practices, choosing instead to work out at his college alma mater, Miami. He always comes in for the team's mandatory mini-camp, which will be held June 4-6, and missing time in Indianapolis hasn't affected Wayne's performance. He has made the last four Pro Bowls and is the Colts' No. 2 all-time receiver.

Bethea isn't allowed to work out with the team because the restricted free agent hasn't yet signed the Colts' one-year tender offer. Caldwell said the Pro Bowl safety has been in town, though he hasn't worked out at the team complex.

Colts president Bill Polian said before last month's NFL draft that he expects Bethea to sign.

Mathis has been a regular at previous minicamps, but he took this one off after attending his college graduation ceremony last week. The Colts held their first practice Tuesday.

Just as important was who made it back.

Sanders, the 2007 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, missed the first part of last season after having surgery on his right knee. He didn't come back from that injury until late October, played two games, then missed the rest of the season after a left biceps injury.

And he looked like his old self Thursday.

"I can tell he's feeling good by the way he's moving around," Caldwell said. "He looks good, he feels good, he's doing well."

The Colts expected Gonzalez to play a more prominent role last season, his third with the team, after Marvin Harrison was let go in the offseason.

But in the first quarter of the season opener, Gonzalez crumbled to the ground, clutching his right knee. The 2007 first-round pick missed the rest of the season with sprained ligaments, giving rookie Austin Collie and second-year pro Pierre Garcon a chance to shine and forcing Gonzalez into a fight this year for Indianapolis' No. 2 receiver spot.

"Everybody had such great years last year, so it will be interesting to see what happens," Gonzalez said. "I've been told that I'll have an opportunity to compete for my old job, and that's all I can ask. That's all I want."

Vinatieri also said he was healthier after undergoing surgery on his kicking knee last fall. Arguably the best clutch kicker in league history, Vinatieri made a brief late-season appearance after the injury, then was replaced by veteran Matt Stover in the playoffs.

Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney is attending camp, but he isn't participating in team drills. Instead, he's rehabilitating the right ankle that slowed him during the Colts' Super Bowl XLIV loss to the New Orleans Saints.

"He's progressing and he's doing awfully well," Caldwell said.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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