This early, in the year, NFL teams are unwilling to arrange a vacation to Florida. Indeed, it’s a refreshing vacational spot for relaxing and aloof from reality.

Given that the Indianapolis Colts earned a trip to Miami after clinching the AFC title against the New York Jets, Peyton Manning and the gang didn’t travel to Florida for a vacation in paradise or to visit the vicious alligators in the Everglades. The Colts have landed in South Beach for one objective.

That’s to win the Super Bowl on Sunday, and celebrate its first championship in four years. But there’s a scare, and fans are holding their collective breaths, worried heavily about the latest health status of Colts monstrous defensive end Dwight Freeney, who has a torn ligament in his right ankle. Minus the Pro Bowler, the Colts' defense is depleted by this troubling injury. Given that he’s arguably the best pass-rusher in the game and the supreme leader on defense, Freeney’s unavailability is a heartbreaker.

According to team spokesman Graig Kelley, he’s being treated in Florida. “He’s under the care of our athletic training staff”, Kelley said. “Nothing we have seen changes our diagnosis that he is questionable. He has a third-degree, low basketball sprain.”

Any team that loses a star player due to injuries is mind-boggling. Whichever way you envision the sudden tension, the Colts are suffering and dealing with the agonizing loss of a defensive weapon, a reliable source to help pressure Drew Brees and make a three-hour event miserable.

In a positive context, the Colts are classifying the injury as a low-ankle sprain and listed Freeney as questionable for Super Bowl XLIV on Sunday. No matter if there’s a Pro Bowl gunslinger in Manning, no matter if there’s the inspirational sensibility of wideout Pierre Garcon, who’ll be playing with a heavy heart as many of his relatives are coping with the catastrophic earthquake that ravaged his native country of Haiti, the legitimate winner usually sustains triumph from a defensive effort.

Beyond the usual presumption that defense wins championships, Manning is capable of delivering a last-second miracle. Anything can happen if he fires his massive passes deep across the field. It’s rare to see a quarterback defy the unprecedented, including the lone Super Bowl title, the four MVP awards, and the passing records.

He brings back memories of Joe Montana and Dan Marino. Similar to their unique brand, Manning could eventually be a Super Bowl hero. Knowing him, he could fling a game-winning pass to Pierre Garcon or Reggie Wayne, two leading receivers he targets greatly. So, in the prior years of witnessing breathtaking finishes, could the Colts replicate an instant classic?

Currently, it’s tough to determine, when a must-needed piece is hit with a horrific injury. The latest news is a disadvantage, especially when it involves a player who means so much to a franchise. Hearing that the problematic injury is a torn ligament is bad news.

In reality, Freeney’s effectiveness isn’t as stout, which effects his ability to pivot and apply speed as a way to intimidate Brees. Before dwelling on a dramatic offense, panic about the declining defense. If Freeney is sidelined for the festivities, the pass rush is less of a factor and the odds of capping a dream victory could suddenly shrink. The weakest link is the Colts’ secondary, and their task is difficult against the Saints bottomless receiver core of Marques Colston, Jeremy Shockey, and Devery Henderson.

But worse is not having the necessities for hindering New Orleans’ invaluable passing game. Understand that Freeney is the face of an ailing defense and a NFL brand name. Unfortunately, he may have to watch from the sideline and miss out on the most important game. He may have to bear a painful scene if the Colts suffer a loss.

His ability to bulldoze and send quarterbacks crashing to the turf is instrumental in a game when all components matter. Being hampered by health issues, Freeney has been inactive and missed three days of practice last week. If anything, the Colts are in a position where they must explore options on defense. We all know losing a fallen star is a huge blow, especially when it involves winning the hardware and marching in a parade next week.

“There’s been many weeks where he’s had some situations that have looked like he would not be able to play but he’s been able to battle through it and not only play, but play well,” Jim Caldwell, the first-year head coach, said on Sirius NFL Radio. “So he’s a quick healer and we’re praying for the same thing to happen this week as well.”

If he’s not available on the greatest stage on Sunday, the Colts will miss Freeney’s athleticism. As it stands, he’s their top defender with plenty of individual accomplishments. The Colts need Freeney, a defender tied for third in the league this season with 13.5 sacks. In his injury history, he’s known for fast recoveries, including earlier in the season when he returned seven days after blowing out his quadriceps. The way disconcerted people may want to treat the issue is by wishing for a speedy recovery.

Who knows, he may recover in time and contribute enough to turn around the team’s personality. It makes sense to panic over the dire affliction, as it makes a difference on an entire franchise. Even more so, with 13.5 sacks this season, Freeney has produced double-digit sacks six times in the last eight seasons.

“It’s hard to speculate at this point,” Manning said. “Dwight is one of our best players, we know that. But all season long coach Caldwell has talked about picking up the bayonet. Someone’s got to step up. If Dwight were not to be able to go that would be tough, but somebody else will step up and we’ll feel confident in whoever that is.”

Even though he has a tendency for healing faster than normal, the ankle injury likely will create angst. It nearly owns headlines over any other football-related topics. As Super Bowl week is under way, Freeney is nursing an injury in which he suffered in victory over the New York Jets in the AFC Championship Game. Shortly after a light workout, the team boarded the charter flight and arrived to Miami, ready to go without Freeney if necessary. But still, it’s not the same.

There’s a feeling of emptiness, for all the sudden obstacles. This may have a large impact on the Colts, reducing their likelihood of leaving Miami victorious, a position they’ve set their eyes on during the regular season as a reason for shunning perfection. The Colts want to win and sustain this euphoria, but now it appears inevitable without Freeney having an impact.

Sorry: no Freeney, no Super Bowl.


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