Sunday, July 28, 2002

Colts sign first-round pick

AP Sports Writer

        INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts signed first-round pick Dwight Freeney on Saturday, less than 24 hours before players were to report for training camp.

        Freeney, a defensive end, was the last of the Colts' eight drafted players to sign. Defensive tackle Larry Tripplett, the Colts' second-round choice, signed a four-year deal Friday afternoon. Both players participated in a three-day rookie camp that ended Friday morning.

        Freeney, the 11th overall pick, said repeatedly that he anticipated terms being worked out before the Colts' first practice — Monday morning at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind.

        “I think it's very likely,” Freeney said following Thursday's practice. “I'm not handling that so I don't want to discuss it too much, but I think it's very likely to get done.”

        Freeney could not be reached for comment Saturday in Indianapolis, and his agent, Gary Wichard, did not return several phone messages left by The Associated Press at his office.

        Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

        “He's signed,” team president Bill Polian said, declining further comment.

        It marks the second straight year that the Colts enter camp with all of their players under contract.

        Freeney, along with Tripplett, is expected to help anchor a revamped defensive line under first-year coach Tony Dungy.

        “You always like to have guys in camp,” new coach Tony Dungy said. “I'm always confident things will be worked out.”

        At 6-foot-1, 266 pounds, Freeney's primary job will be as a speed-rushing presence. He led the nation with 17 1/2 sacks last year at Syracuse.

        Tripplett's responsibility will be to plug the middle, and at 6-foot-2, 314 pounds, the Colts believe he can be the run-stuffer they covet.

        Other newcomers on the defense include cornerback Walt Harris, who was signed as an unrestricted free agent from Chicago, and linebacker Greg Favors, who spent three years in Tennessee and one season in Kansas City before joining the Colts.

        But the Colts hope Freeney can alleviate some of the pressure and double teams faced by their top pass-rushing threat Chad Bratzke, who has led the Colts in sacks each of the last three seasons.

        Where the two will play remains a question.

        Bratzke has played on the right side since leaving the New York Giants and joining the Colts as a free agent in 1999. Freeney also started on the right side in college and both players practiced there during the team's mini-camps.

        Bratzke said he's played on the left side before, and Dungy also has said the Colts may rotate the two players at right defensive end.

        “We're going to find out where all these guys can function,” Dungy said. “And we're going to move a lot of guys around.”


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