The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Sports

August 10, 2010

Colts' Gonzalez plays catch-up

Fourth-year WR recovering from right knee injury

ANDERSON, Ind. — Last season was supposed to be a breakout year for Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez.

It lasted one quarter.

Gonzalez injured his right knee in Week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars and never returned. He was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 24 and missed the Colts’ Super Bowl run.

Sunday he’ll return to the field for the preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“It’ll be nice to play,” he said. “I feel like I haven’t played a game since high school. It hasn’t been that long, but it feels like it’s been awhile. So it’ll be fun, yeah.”

Gonzalez missed Monday morning’s practice with what he described as “a real bad cramp.”

“I think that’s what it is,” he said. “I hope so. I got out of bed and almost fell down.”

But he said he could return today or Wednesday and otherwise feels healthy.

That’s a relatively new feeling for the fourth-year wideout from Ohio State.

He still felt pain in his knee up to three weeks ago, but it never stopped him from getting in his offseason work.

After a hamstring injury limited his time in offseason workouts, Gonzalez approached quarterback Peyton Manning and asked to join him in Knoxville, Tenn.

“I went up to him and said, ‘Hey, I know it’s not the same, but can I come down there?” he said. “And he was all for it. It was actually kind of fun.”

The pair were joined by second-year receiver Austin Collie, who had a breakout season in Gonzalez’s place, and spent three days working out in scorching heat.

“We definitely worked,” Gonzalez said. “We went out, and it was hotter than heck. It felt like it was 150 degrees. I know it wasn’t, but it was so hot down there.”

The trio practiced route running for two hours a day on an otherwise empty field. Repetition after       repetition, trying to redevelop the all-important timing between quarterback and receiver.

“It was by no means a vacation,” Gonzalez said. “So it was pretty intense. I mean, as intense as you can make routes on air.”

Gonzalez is no stranger to innovative training techniques. He’s been known to try just about anything if he believes it will help him play better on Sundays.

So when a reporter recently noticed Gonzalez and Collie returning to the locker room wearing baseball gloves long after practice had ended, the natural question was whether they were attempting a new training regime.

No, Collie said, they’re just fans of the national pastime and occasionally like to have a catch. It also helps eye-hand coordination.

That’s a sign of the easy relationships Gonzalez forges with his teammates.

Manning, for instance, rarely fails to miss an opportunity to remind the media of Gonzalez’s importance to the offense.

“I know Anthony is happy to be out there, and every time Anthony is on the field he makes plays, big plays as you would know from the big plays he’s made throughout his time here,” Manning said last week. “So it’ll be good to get him back out there on the field. He is truly going to help our offense this year.”

In last Thursday night’s scrimmage, Gonzalez made one of the biggest plays — a 46-yard reception that gave the offense a first-and-goal at the 5-yard line.

Gonzalez said even he was surprised by how quickly the timing has come back between he and Manning, but he’s had to work a little harder to win the demanding quarterback’s trust.

“We have two-and-a-half years of experience to draw from,” he said. “And then, obviously, last year got cut very short for me. So we weren’t starting at square one by any means.”

Gonzalez said he stayed in Indianapolis last season, even while he was injured, so he could remain in the offense mentally, if not physically.

All that hard work seems to have paid off.

“He’s been doing very well,” head coach Jim Caldwell said Monday. “He has certainly come along. He certainly understands our offense extremely well, but he’s making a lot of big plays and catching the ball well and moving well.”

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