By Steve Ginsburg
FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida (Reuters) - The tender ankle of Dwight Freeney was the dominant talking point when the Indianapolis Colts arrived in South Florida to make their final preparations for Super Bowl on Monday.
"He's a great player, obviously a very talented guy," Colts coach Jim Caldwell told reporters barely an hour after the team's plane touched down in a driving rainstorm.
"There have been some guys from time to time that we've had to play without. If he can't go, it's kind of an old mantra that we've said time and time again: 'The next man is up'."
The 29-year-old Freeney, who had 13.5 sacks this season, suffered a low ankle sprain against the Jets and has been in Miami since Friday receiving treatment.
Caldwell said Freeney is "certainly a quick healer" but was non-committal when asked if he thought the eight-year NFL veteran would suit up on Sunday at Dolphin Stadium.
"Well, he hasn't been practicing, so if he's not practicing then obviously we're preparing as if he's not going to play," he said. "If we happen to get an opportunity to get him in there, we'll obviously do so."
Defensive tackle Daniel Muir said the club would miss Freeney but be able to cope.
"You want Dwight Freeney out there, but if he isn't able to go, we'll just have to go and pick up the bayonettes," he said.
Saints running back Reggie Bush said they are expecting Freeney to play as the Colts go for their second NFL championship in four years.
"We are going to prepare as if he is playing. He is one of their best players on defense. It starts with him and (Robert) Mathis up front on their defense.
"We will prepare as if both of those guys are playing, and if we get to the game and they don't, then so be it."
(Reporting by Steve Ginsburg; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)