The league's defensive player of the year for the 2007 season, Sanders was here Thursday for a Super Bowl-related function, with his right arm in a sling. The four-year veteran said he recently underwent arthroscopic surgery to address a lingering shoulder problem and clean out debris from the joint.
"Just a little maintenance, you know?" said Sanders, who said he expected to be in the sling for about three weeks. "It's no big deal, really. If things had worked out for us, and we were playing in the Super Bowl this week, I'd definitely be out on the field."
Last year, Sanders underwent surgery on his left shoulder, and he missed much of the Colts' offseason conditioning program and also some time in training camp.
Sanders, 26, had some shoulder problems throughout the year, and then aggravated the injury in the third quarter of Indianapolis' season-ending loss to San Diego in a divisional-round contest.
"It was pretty dinged up, but I wanted to get it done as quickly as possible, so that I had time to heal and get ready for the [offseason] work," Sanders said. "It was something that, if we were still playing, could have waited. But now, with the season over, it was like, 'OK, let's get this done.' There was no sense waiting."
Because of injuries, Sanders missed as many games his first three seasons (24) as he played in, but he was always a factor when healthy. One of the NFL's shortest defenders, at just 5-feet-8, Sanders is regarded in many circles as the toughest player pound-for-pound in the league.
The former University of Iowa star, a second-round choice in the 2004 draft, is most effective when playing close to the line of scrimmage, but has demonstrated considerable improvement in coverage the past two seasons.
Sanders played in a career-high 15 games in 2007, and registered 97 tackles, four sacks, two interceptions, six passes defensed and two forced fumbles.
In late December, the Colts signed Sanders to a five-year, $37.5 million contract extension featuring $20 million in guarantees. Without the extension, Sanders would have been eligible for unrestricted free agency this spring.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.