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Colts' Bennett Hopes To Return

Colts' Bennett Hopes To Return

January 11, 2000   INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Reports that linebacker Cornelius Bennett, the leading tackler for the Indianapolis Colts this season, will miss the playoffs with a knee injury might have been premature.

Bennett, who started all 16 games, tore the medial collateral ligament in his left knee and also stretched his posterior cruciate ligament when he was blocked Sunday by Buffalo's Antowain Smith on the Bills' opening offensive play.

``The swelling is dissipating every day, and the soreness is dissipating,' Bennett said after watching the Colts practice Thursday.

``I'm optimistic. I normally heal fast. The way I'm healing right now is pretty good. We'll re-evaluate on Monday,' Bennett said.

The Colts have a first-round bye in the playoffs and will play either Seattle, Buffalo or Tennessee in the RCA Dome on Jan. 16. Bennett said he was optimistic about playing in that game.

``If not next week, hopefully we can win and I'll get a chance to play the following week,' Bennett said.

Bennett said his MCL was torn and that the PCL was only stretched. It had been feared that both ligaments were torn.

``I'm doing what they are asking me to do, and even a little more. Flexibility-wise, it is pretty good. I'm a little sore, but I'm hoping for next week,' said Bennett, who had 114 tackles during the season.

``I am not one of those guys who doesn't listen to the doctors, but if there is any possibility that I can get out on the field, I'll be there.'

At 34 and in his 13th season, Bennett said he's motivated to earn a Super Bowl championship. He is the only player in league history to be on the losing side in five Super Bowl games -- four with Buffalo and one last January with Atlanta.

If he can't play, Bennett is confident Bertrand Berry or Ratcliff Thomas can be a capable replacement.

``They're young guys. Bertrand, he's played some. He has started in the past, so it's not a totally new thing to him,' Bennett said.

However, 12 of Berry's 13 starts were last year as a defensive end, and his only start at linebacker was as a rookie in 1997. Until he replaced Bennett on Sunday, Berry had only five tackles on defense this season. He had four more against Buffalo.

``I told him he's just got to step up and be the man. No one expected me to come in and play the way I did this season, except for myself,' Bennett said. ``I came in and made an impact, and he can do the same thing.'

Bennett, signed as an unrestricted free agent after being cut last year by Atlanta, has been a vital member of an improved defensive unit that helped the Colts produce the biggest turnaround in NFL history. After finishing 3-13 in 1998, the Colts won the AFC East championship at 13-3.

``I know my body and I've overcome a lot in my career on and off the field,' said Bennett, who has more playoff experience than any other member of the team.

``This is another obstacle and I can hurdle it, even if one leg is not so good,' he said. ``If I can move, then I'm going to be out there. I feel me at 60-70 percent is better than a lot of guys at 100 percent.'

Image courtesy of PicturesNow.com

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