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Matt Hasselbeck returns to practice for the Colts on Thursday

As expected, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck returned to practice for the Colts on Thursday.

Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

With Andrew Luck already ruled out for Sunday's huge matchup against the Houston Texans, the status of Matt Hasselbeck becomes much more important for the Indianapolis Colts.  The good news in that regard is that Hasselbeck returned to practice on Thursday, just like the Colts expected him to.

Hasselbeck has been beat up recently, as he has left each of the past two games with injuries.  On Sunday, he again injured his ribs and has had his left arm in a sling this week - something that Chuck Pagano said helps to prevent spasms that he has been having in association with the injury.  He sat out of practice on Wednesday, but Pagano had said that they expected the quarterback to return on Thursday.

Pagano also has said that he expects Hasselbeck to be available for Sunday's game, which would be his fifth straight start and his seventh overall this year.  Andrew Luck is getting closer to returning, as he returned to practice this week, but he is not yet 100% or cleared for 11-on-11 work, meaning that he still is recovering and still needs time.  That's why Pagano ruled him out on Wednesday, as he said there was no use in drawing it out.

Of course, if Hasselbeck can't play, it will be Charlie Whitehurst making his first start of the season for the Colts in their biggest game.  The Colts are preparing Whitehurst in case that possibility becomes reality, but the fact that Hasselbeck was back on the practice field today is a good sign that he should be able to play on Sunday.