After having surgery yesterday to repair his torn biceps, Bob Sanders will remain on the active roster until he can return to the field, or until he is deemed unable to return this season. The move is reminiscent of what the team did last year with both Anthony Gonzalez and Adam Vinatieri, so fans will likely worry that the roster spot is being "wasted." They will also be frustrated - especially as we get closer to the stated 10-12 week mark - if they continue to hear that Bob is "week to week" or there is no update at all.
But the reality is that there are no young, healthy Pro Bowler-caliber safeties sitting around at home waiting for a phone call. Also, the NFL's version of the DL can be useful in this situation - there are always 8 players listed as inactive for each game. Bobzilla will simply occupy one of those 8 spots every week for the next 10-12 weeks, if his past recovery history can reliably inform this situation.
I am personally thrilled that the team is giving Bob this opportunity, and not just for the potential that he can return near the end of the season when the team may be in a playoff push.
But I'm thrilled because it demonstrates that the notion of "player value" means more to the Colts than simply a salary figure. Many have been quick to hold up Sanders' 2010 and 2011 salary, and declare that he's not worth it, that it's time to part ways with him, that he's not valuable if not on the field. I don't disagree with the final statement.
But if we are to use objective business terms, what we're witnessing is a management team who is doing their level best to salvage an asset, to restore it to operable - if not optimal - condition. They have evaluated the risk and decided that the potential reward of Bob's return in time for the playoffs outweighs the possibility that he will not return at all. More to the point, they believe the potential reward is worth the investment cost - his weekly salary for the next 10-12 weeks. I believe they have little choice but to pay him anyway (making this more like a sunk cost), unless they were to agree to an injury settlement, so why not keep him in position to return should he heal?
All that said, I don't believe for a second that their decision was entirely objective. Bob is a humble, hard-working, good man. He is a leader in the locker room and in the community, well-liked and well-respected. His continued presence as an established veteran and mentor to other players is something that can't be quantified. Want proof? Ask the 2009 Patriots what the discarding of several veteran players did to their team. Of course Sanders isn't the only veteran on the team, but his presence is important.
I'm thrilled that Bill Polian has chosen this path, even if in 3, 5 or 12 weeks we learn a return is not possible. Good luck, Bobzilla - we're rooting for you!