INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Anthony Gonzalez, Bob Sanders and Adam Vinatieri were back on the Colts practice field Thursday.
The defending AFC champions wrapped up their third and final day of a voluntary mini-camp 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 Indy hasn't affected Wayne's performance. He's made the last four Pro Bowls and is the Colts' No. 2 all-time receiver.
Bethea is not allowed to work out with the team because the restricted free agent has not yet signed the Colts' one-year tender. Caldwell said the Pro Bowl safety has been in town, though he has not worked out at the team complex.
Team president Bill Polian said before last month's NFL draft he expects Bethea to sign.
Mathis has been a regular at previous mini-camps but 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.
In the first quarter of the season-opener, Gonzalez crumbled to the ground, clutching his right knee. Indy's 2007 first-round pick missed the rest of the season with sprained ligaments, giving rookie Austin Collie and second-year receiver Pierre Garcon a chance to shine and forcing Gonzalez into a fight this year for Indy's 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. The best clutch kicker in league history made a brief late-season appearance after the injury, then was replaced in the playoffs by veteran Matt Stover.
Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney is attending camp but is not participating in team drills. Instead, he's rehabilitating the right ankle that slowed him during Indy's Super Bowl loss to New Orleans.
"He's progressing and he's doing awfully well," Caldwell said.