By MICHAEL MAROT
AP Sports Writer
INDIANAPOLIS -- Doctors kept telling Colts cornerback Marlin Jackson and running back Mike Hart to be patient. They said it would take a full year to recover from their knee surgeries.
Both players ignored that prognosis.
During Thursday's mini-camp workout, Jackson was back on the field, less than six months after having surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee. Hart, who also had ACL surgery, may not be far behind.
"I've just been blessed, so far, because I've been healing up faster than people thought," Jackson said. "I think the guys, coaches, were surprised. I kept telling them, but they really don't know till they see you."
Clearly, coach Jim Caldwell liked what he saw and heard from the two, who both finished last season on injured reserve.
Most players take 12 months to recover from an ACL injury and some need more time to return to form. These two are defying the odds, and in Jackson's case, remarkably quickly considering he needed surgery twice on his right knee.
Jackson hurt the knee during a non-contact practice Oct. 30 when he tried to stop. The next day, doctors repaired his damaged meniscus, then waited to perform the ACL surgery until Dec. 1.
In January, Jackson said he was ahead of schedule. A month later, Caldwell reiterated the point, and before April's draft, team president Bill Polian said Jackson was still progressing faster than expected.
On Thursday, Jackson proved he was right -- and everyone else was wrong -- by participating in non-contact team drills and backpedaling at normal practice speed.
"He's one of those guys who has a great work ethic and great work habits," Caldwell said with a smile. "He's working hard to come back as soon as possible."
Jackson said, he is not yet 100 percent and fans may not see him doing full workouts when training camp opens in August because there's no reason to risk re-injuring the knee.
But it's enough to convince Jackson, and the Colts coaches, he will be healthy enough to reclaim his starting spot for the Sept. 13 against Jacksonville.
"It's really walk-throughs now, but I can still move around and you've still got bodies in front of you to contend with," he said. "I know I'll be clear (at training camp) with where I am now, but I still have a little ways to go to get back to my normal self."
The return of Jackson would give the Colts' defense a major boost.
At 6-foot, 196 pounds, he is one of the biggest and most productive defensive backs on the roster. He finished ninth on the team with 57 tackles despite missing nine games and had 76 tackles and one interception in 2007 after becoming a full-time starter.
Hart, too, may be ready to practice at training camp.
He was listed as the Colts' third running back as a rookie, behind Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes, but the former Michigan star's season ended with a torn ACL in Week 5 against Baltimore.
Rhodes signed with Buffalo in free agency, and the Colts drafted Connecticut's Donald Brown in the first round this year. But Hart could still play a significant role if he's healthy.
"I can tell you, I can pretty much do everything right now," said Hart, who was often slowed by injuries in college.
The Colts will be testing Hart's knee during the minicamp workouts and in Terre Haute.
But with all indications showing the two former Michigan players are almost ready to go, everyone wants to know how they made it back so fast.
"We have good doctors, what can I say?" Hart said.