Could Anthony Gonzalez Have Returned This Season?

INDIANAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 01: Anthony Gonzalez #11 of Indianapolis Colts runs with the ball while defended by Eugene Wilson #26 of the Houston Texans during the NFL game at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 1 2010 in Indianapolis Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Here's an interesting excerpt from this week's Polian Corner which didn't seem to generate as much attention as I would have expected:

We made the decision to put Anthony Gonzalez on injured reserve because we needed that spot just to line up and play. Blair White was down. Austin was gimpy from the heel injury, so we needed that spot to play. Gonzo and I talked before the game (Sunday). I said, 'How are you doing?' He said, 'I hate to tell you: I feel pretty good.' I'm glad that he does, because it means he's heading down the right road rehab-wise, and he'll be back next year better than ever. That's what happens. You get stretched to the point where you have to make roster decisions just to play a game, and you end up coming out in some cases on the short end of that one. We know that going in. We know what the odds are when you make those decisions, but sometimes you don't have a choice. In Gonzo's case, we hated to do it. We agonized over it, but we felt like we didn't have a choice. We had to put healthy people on the field.

Of course we understand that the Colts have had to make several tough roster decisions this year given the injury situation.  But I think the Gonzo scenario deserves a little more attention in light of the Bob Sanders situation.

Polian has been promising an early-to-mid December return for Sanders as he has rehabbed from tearing his biceps tendon in the Colts' season opener.  Originally, speculation had Sanders visiting Dr. James Andrews this week in order to receive clearance to practice with the Colts and begin preparing himself to play sometime in the next few weeks.  Phil B thinks it's an encouraging sign that Sanders has been spotted around the practice facility, but by all accounts Sanders has not received clearance to practice yet and there's no guarantee that he will next week either. 

On an optimistic calendar, Sanders could visit Dr. Andrews and consequentially return to practice next week and receive the green light to play against Jacksonville on Dec. 19, but since it is Sanders and since speculation continues to swirl, we know nothing is certain.  It's still possible -- though I'm not sure probable -- that we will not see Sanders back this year, or that Sanders will promptly find himself back on the injury report once he does return.

If this is the case, if Sanders either does not return or does not return for long, I think some folks are going to have to question whether Polian should have sent Sanders to IR and held out for Gonzo's return instead.  I'm not necessarily advocating this myself, just drawing attention to an interesting scenario.  I don't know that Gonzo has any greater chance of staying healthy than Sanders (recent history would say 'no') but it sounds like he might be healthier (relatively speaking) than Sanders at this point. 

I can see why the Colts essentially chose to keep waiting on Sanders and IR Gonzo: they have a far greater need at safety.  As thin as the WR position has seemed with Austin Collie still fighting concussion symptoms, Reggie Wayne seemingly playing on a bad knee and Pierre Garcon just recently starting to play up to par, the safety position is in far greater need of upgrade.  Even with his injury history, Sanders is a dynamic upgrade from Aaron Francisco and I'm sure the Colts weighed these two positions when making their roster decisions. 

Still, you have to figure if anything goes wrong with Sanders' return, people are going to be asking why Polian didn't wait on Gonzo instead.  It's a tough position for Polian, and one I certainly would never envy.

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