INDIANAPOLIS — For the Indianapolis Colts, the times are certainly changing.
The Colts have long been a franchise that has preferred to stick with the status quo. And for good reason. After all, six straight 12-win seasons, seven consecutive trips to the postseason and one Super Bowl championship are all pretty good testaments to their consistency on the field.
But turnover — in the front office, on the sidelines and in the locker room — has become the norm rather than the exception heading into the 2009 National Football League season. In some ways, the Colts have become a team in transition.
Already there has been movement on the coaching staff with the loss of head coach Tony Dungy to retirement, replaced by associate head coach Jim Caldwell, and the hiring of new coordinators for defense (Larry Coyer replacing Ron Meeks) and special teams (Ray Rychleski taking over for Russ Purnell).
Also gone are longtime athletic trainer Hunter Smith, who has been with the franchise since 1983; Bill Brooks, the team’s executive director of administration, a Colts wide receiver from 1986-92 and a member of the front office since 1998; and executive director of community relations Nicole Duncan, who started with the team in 1993.
Now there is a very real possibility that Indianapolis could begin training camp — wherever it’s located this summer — without fan favorites such as wide receiver Marvin Harrison, center Jeff Saturday and punter Hunter Smith.
Harrison’s contract issues may end up making him a salary-cap casualty as soon as this week. He has a $13.4-million salary-cap figure heading into the 2009 season, with a base salary of $9 million. When a $2-million salary cap acceleration for 2009 is included, the Colts could conceivably save $7 million in cap space with $6.4 million in dead money.
“I don’t want to characterize discussions [with Harrison] in any way other than to say we’re having discussions. We’re working on two fronts. On one front, we are impacted by the salary cap for the first time in 11 years because of the new rules that come in this year, the last capped year. That is not something we planned for,” team president Bill Polian said Sunday at the National Football Scouting Combine.
“As a result, that creates issues with any number of players. Marvin is one of them. Hopefully we can find a way to work through that, and we’re trying to. I don’t have any answers beyond that other than we’re trying to work through it.”
The team, meanwhile, opted not to franchise Saturday late last week. His agent, Ralph Cindrich, said that Saturday would test the free-agent market but was open to returning to Indianapolis. While the two sides are continuing to negotiate, an agreement was not considered to be imminent. The four-time Pro Bowl selection is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on Friday.
“We haven’t made any decision [on Saturday]. We’re still talking. We’ve made an offer and he’s mulling it over. We’ll see where that goes. It’s very much an unfinished picture at this point,” Polian said. “It’s perfectly legitimate for him to [test the free agent market]. I understand where he’s coming from.”
Joining Saturday on the free-agent list will be Smith (unrestricted), running back Dominic Rhodes (unrestricted), safety Matt Giordano (unrestricted), linebacker Tyjuan Hagler (unrestricted), cornerback Keiwan Ratliff (unrestricted), defensive tackle Darrell Reid (unrestricted), defensive end Josh Thomas (unrestricted), linebacker Freddy Keiaho (restricted), offensive guard/tackle Dan Federkeil (restricted), running back Lance Ball (exclusive rights), linebacker Buster Davis (exclusive rights) and defensive tackle Daniel Muir (exclusive rights).
• Training camp decision expected sooner than later — Polian said that any final decision on where training camp will be located should come sometime in the next few weeks.
“We’re still working on the site,” he said. “With respect to the institutions that are involved [Anderson University and Rose-Hulman] and ourselves, [a decision is expected] sooner rather than later. But we have a little more time. We don’t have to do it tomorrow or the next day or next week. We can do it certainly within a month.”
Polian added that Caldwell may make a few changes in how the team’s spring workouts and training camp practices are conducted this year.
“Jim has already put his mark on the daily operations [of the team] in the way he wants things done, which is a little different than what Tony [Dungy] did, and that’s to be expected and understandable,” he said.
“But we’ve gone ahead without any interruption at all. [Caldwell] has taken a little bit different approach to the off-season [conditioning] program. And perhaps the [training] camp. We haven’t solidified that yet. But we’re talking about it. He had some questions about what we did in the past and we’re working our way through and we’ll see if we can get them answered.”
• Injury updates — Offensive guard Ryan Lilja (knee), cornerback Marlin Jackson (knee), cornerback Michael Coe (knee), running back Mike Hart (knee) and safety Bob Sanders (knee) are all expected to be back in time for the start of training camp.
Polian said that Jackson and Sanders will most likely start out on the physically unable to perform list. Hart may also end up on the physically unable to perform list for the start of training camp, but a decision on his status has yet to be finalized.
• Heard in the hallway — Louisiana State wide receiver Demetrius Byrd (6-1, 200) has talked to eight teams so far, including the Colts. Byrd, who had a 40 time of 4.42 on Sunday, figures to wind up in the slot but could also play outside.
Maryland’s Darrius Heywood-Bey (6-2, 205), meanwhile, is an outside receiver prospect drawing interest from several of the teams slated to make a selection from the middle of the first round on down, including Indianapolis. Heywood-Bey was clocked at 4.30 in the 40.
North Carolina wide receiver Brooks Foster (6-1, 204) said this week that he models his game after the Colts’ Reggie Wayne. Foster, who is another possible Colts draft pick, has tried to emulate Wayne’s consistency as a route runner. The Tar Heels, by the way, have three receivers who could wind up being drafted — Brandon Tate, Hakeem Nicks and Foster.
Indiana University’s Andrew Means had a 40 time of 4.44. Percy Harvin, who played at Florida and could be in the mix as a Colts’ first-round draft pick, was timed at 4.41.
Georgia defensive tackle Corvey Irvin (6-3, 296) said that Indianapolis was one of six teams that had set up interviews with him during the combine.
INDIANAPOLIS — For the Indianapolis Colts, the times are certainly changing.
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