With the sound of hard hits, blazing speed and dynamic super plays, the NFL is back in Tokyo for the first time in two years.
on the Indianapolis Colts in a preseason game on Saturday night.
The Atlanta Falcons and the Indianapolis Colts, who are to play in NFL Tokyo 2005 on Saturday night at Tokyo Dome, had practice sessions in pads and shorts at the stadium on Thursday morning.
The practice turned out to be a nightmare for the Colts, when wide receiver Brandon Stokley suffered a dislocated left shoulder during the session after leaping unsuccessfully for a pass and then hitting the turf hard.
Stokley was one of the team’s trio of 1,000-yard plus receivers last season — along with teammates Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne — which helped the Colts win the AFC South with a 12-4 record.
“It looks like (Stokley) is gonna be out about three to four weeks but he’s gonna be OK,” the Colts head coach Tony Dungy said. “It’s gonna be tight (until the season starts). We’ll see how quickly he’ll be ready to play. Hopefully, he’ll be OK at the beginning of the season, but if not, we’ll have someone else step up.”
Defensive end Dwight Freeney, who led the NFL with 16 sacks last season, and starting center Jeff Saturday did not make the trip to Japan due to injuries. But Dungy said they’ll be ready for the season opener.
During Thursday’s practice, quarterback Peyton Manning, the NFL’s MVP last season, was a clear leader on the field. He called plays during passing drills as if he were a position coach and made some adjustments of other players’ positions during a scrimmage.
Manning, who set the NFL record for the most touchdown passes in a single season with 49 last year, looked relaxed and ready to play.
“The best thing about Manning is his hard work, attention to the details and that he never wants to make a mistake,” Dungy said.
“It was a good practice. We did everything we have to do in the first day of the practice. Overall, it was good and in good tempo,” Dungy said.
About 16 hours after arriving in Japan, the Falcons appeared on the field at 8:30 a.m., and worked out for two hours, 30 minutes more than originally scheduled.
Asked how hard it was to accomplish here what they do back in the States in only two hours, the Falcons head coach Jim Mora said after the workout: “You can make that case, but our guys are focused. Our team is the type of the team that comes out ready to work. We’ll go back to some meetings and after that we’re going out to enjoy the city.”
The Falcons, who set developing their passing attack as one of the primary goals during training camp, after having the No. 1 rushing offense in the league last season, spent more time on passing in the training session.
The Falcons won the NFC South with an 11-5 record but lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game last season.
This will be the 12th NFL preseason game that Tokyo has hosted since 1989.
Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. on Saturday.
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