Bob Sanders, Strong safety
THE QUESTION that looms over Sanders is always the same. "Will he stay healthy?" wonders Colts president Bill Polian. "The odds tell you he's probably going to miss some time." Through six NFL seasons the closest the two-time All-Pro has come to playing a full schedule was in 2007, when he started 15 games, earned NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors and helped Indy win Super Bowl XLI. But the two years since have seen Sanders sidelined for 24 games with a litany of ailments, including a high ankle sprain and a knee that required off-season arthroscopic surgery in '08. He tried to play through both injuries but lasted just two games before returning to the injured list with a torn biceps tendon.
Sanders compensates for his lack of size (he's listed at 5'8" and 206 pounds) by playing the game with reckless abandon, leaving him more susceptible to getting hurt. The Colts have learned to make do without him so far. Fourth-year man Melvin Bullitt had a career-high 77 tackles in 2009 while playing alongside Antoine Bethea, who finished third on the team in that department (95). Bethea also picked off four passes and forced two fumbles, emerging as a defensive playmaker in his fourth season.
With Sanders back, the Colts can deploy all three safeties when they go into their nickel package. At which point a different question might be asked of Sanders: Can he keep up?