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March 20, 2013

Colts sign Matt Hasselbeck to back up Luck

Veteran quarterback signs 2-year, $8 million deal

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts’ roster moves just keep coming.

While the Colts haven’t yet added that big-name wide receiver that team owner Jim Irsay hinted at in tweets over the weekend, Indianapolis has addressed one area on offense.

Former Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck had agreed Monday night to be the Colts’ primary back-up to second-year starter Andrew Luck. He officially signed a two-year, $8 million contract with the team Tuesday morning.

“We are very pleased to announce the signing of Matt Hasselbeck,” general manager Ryan Grigson said in a prepared statement. “His body of work, intangibles, and extensive league experience speak for themselves. Those factors, plus his familiarity with our offensive scheme, will make him a great asset to our team and its vision as we move forward.”

Drew Stanton, Luck’s former primary No. 2, was not re-signed after one year with the team. Indianapolis was faced with the proposition of going into the spring organized team activity workouts with only two second-year signal-callers on the roster.

With Stanton moving on to Arizona, where he reunites with former Colts’ offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, now the Cardinals’ head coach, former Norwell High School quarterback Chandler Harnish was tentatively penciled in as Luck’s top backup. Harnish, a seventh-round draft pick a year ago, spent most of his rookie season on the Colts’ practice squad.

Hasselbeck, released by the Titans over the weekend, is viewed as an insurance policy as a veteran game-tested quarterback. Tennessee signed former Buffalo starter Ryan Fitzpatrick to be their No. 2 quarterback behind Jake Locker.

“You know, really I didn’t think Indianapolis would be the team right off the bat. Like you guys probably know by now, I’m on vacation, it’s school break for my kids, so we’re actually out of the country right now. We usually don’t take exotic vacations like this, but we decided to do it this year. So I was really at this beautiful place in the Bahamas when I got the word that I was released by the Tennessee Titans. It was kind of a surreal moment,” he said during a teleconference with Colts media Tuesday afternoon.

“That same phone call included a lot of different opportunities that may come in the next 24 hours and it all just happened so fast I really didn’t necessarily think of the Colts as the team initially for whatever reason.”

Having an opportunity to be the primary backup to a young, up-and-coming quarterback won’t be anything new. Locker, the eighth overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, played behind Hasselback as a rookie. The two split duty last season.

“Obviously [Indianapolis is] very, very well established at the quarterback position. But the more and more I talked about it with my wife, my family and my agent, obviously the reputation that the Colts organization has and the kind of player that Andrew Luck is, more and more [the move] made sense. I would also say that the Colts interest from that moment that I got the phone call to this morning when I signed the contract, their interest just felt the most consistent and it just felt right. There’s 100 reasons why it’s a good idea and I could probably go through them all. But I can just say that I think it’s an obvious fit for a lot of different reasons and I’m really looking forward to it.”

A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Hasselbeck has played in 194 games (with 152 starts) over his 14-year NFL career with Green Bay, Seattle and Tennessee. He has completed 3,029-of-5,018 passes for 34,517 yards, 201 touchdowns and 147 interceptions for a passer rating of 82.2. He currently ranks fourth among active quarterbacks in attempts, completions and passing yards and fifth in passing touchdowns.

In the postseason, Hasselbeck has started 11 games, completing 237 of 406 passes for 18 touchdowns and nine interceptions for an 84.4 rating. He holds 22 career 300-yard passing performances in the regular season and two in the postseason.

“The only person that I’ve actually talked to now that I’m coming to Indianapolis is [head coach] Chuck Pagano. The only person in the Colts organization. Coach Pagano called me late [Monday] night and we had a great conversation. I had to sort of ask him some of those things. I said, ‘Coach, forgive me, here’s what I do know about your offense. I know you’ve got a really, really great young talented quarterback. I’ve got a ton of respect for [wide receiver] Reggie Wayne and what he was able to do coming back to that team after the year they had and really providing veteran leadership. But can you tell me a little bit else about the coaching staff and the offense and those kinds of things?’” the former Boston College quarterback said.

“So we had a good conversation about that and he assured me that with all the different, we started talking about all the different plays that we had run when he was coaching against me and he was like, ‘Oh, we’re going to run that play.’ I’ve just really enjoyed the opportunity to learn from those people and I’m looking forward to learn when I get there.”

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