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Colts say potential starting safety seeing specialist to determine extent of neck injury

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INDIANAPOLIS - Colts safety Delano Howell could soon be facing the biggest decision of his football career.

On Tuesday, general manager Ryan Grigson told reporters that the 24-year-old Stanford alum is seeking more medical opinions about a neck injury that has kept him out of practice for almost two weeks and could threaten his season or even his career.

Howell also missed the final 10 games last season with a neck injury, and, not surprisingly, the Colts want to be cautious about putting Howell back on the field.

"That's why he's getting multiple opinions because you want to make sure that everybody has their opinion going in the same direction because it's not like you're dealing with a fingernail here," Grigson said. "You're dealing with your neck, and that's something that has to be really looked at with a fine tooth comb."

Howell entered training camp as the front runner to win the starting job opposite LaRon Landry in the Colts' secondary.

Coach Chuck Pagano and Grigson were so confident Howell could plug the void left by longtime starter Antoine Bethea, they defied conventional wisdom and didn't draft a safety in May.

Instead, Indy (0-2) signed NFL veterans Mike Adams and Colt Anderson to compete with Howell and Sergio Brown for the job.

Indy has become all-too-familiar with neck injuries recently.

Peyton Manning missed the entire 2011 season after having multiple surgeries to repair a damaged nerve and was eventually released to make room for Andrew Luck.

In addition to Howell's injury last season, running back Ahmad Bradshaw underwent season-ending neck surgery last October — an injury that prompted him to consider retiring before re-signing with the Colts.

"I just told him it's a serious situation and to take his time with the decisions he makes and that other guys make for him," Bradshaw said. "My heart goes out to him and hopefully, like I said, nothing's there."

If Howell can't come back, the Colts do have some experienced players to fill in.

Adams has 73 starts in 11 NFL seasons and played on Denver's AFC championship team last season. Anderson is a five-year veteran who spent the past three seasons in Philadelphia.

Brown, like Howell, has played the past three seasons in Indy where he has excelled on special teams.

This is not the way Adams wanted to win the job, though.

"I was here to compete anyway. I wasn't given the job. I was here to compete for a job," Adams said. "As far as I know, Colt's still playing well, Sergio's still playing well and I'm playing well. We're just trying to make it hard for the coaches."

But Howell may be facing the toughest choice of all.

"At first you've got to think about family, the rest of your life and what you're doing. You know, if you've got kids or not. You start thinking about it," Bradshaw said. "It's a whole long process. Dealing with this game, the neck is very serious. It's just the start for him right now and hopefully it comes out to the best."

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AP NFL websites: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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