The parade of former Indianapolis Colts players and coaches continues today when the Green Bay Packers take the field at Lucas Oil Stadium.
From cornerbacks Tim Jennings and Kelvin Hayden in the regular-season opener with the Chicago Bears to former assistant coaches Leslie Frazier and Alan Williams, now with the Vikings, to outside linebacker Clint Session with the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Colts have certainly spent some time going down memory lane through the first three games of the year.
This afternoon, its center Jeff Saturday, who is in his first season with the Packers. Saturday was a five-time Pro Bowl selection in Indianapolis, a team captain and one of the most familiar faces on the roster. A fan favorite, he was not re-signed this past offseason and was one of several long-time Colts to depart in the midst of a major franchise reboot.
During a recent teleconference with Indianapolis media, Saturday admitted that after his long association with the Colts, it’s going to feel a little strange coming into town as a member of the opposing team.
“You know man, it’s mixed emotions. Obviously you’re coming back with a job at hand, but I spent my whole career there. You’re 13 years not only on a football team, but helping build a community. My wife and I for so many years have been so involved. You’ve got mixed emotions,” he voiced.
“It’s never easy to be on the other side. I obviously have so much respect for the Colts and their organization. It’s always tough. But you’re coming back with a job to get a win and that’s what we’re going down for.”
Even though Saturday is trying to look at today’s game as just another business trip, he’s smart enough to realize that won’t be the case. Far from it.
“I don’t know. I’m going in and I’m sure it’s going to be tough seeing everybody and hanging around. But ultimately I have a job to do and I consider myself a pro and I know I’ve got to go out there and do my job and play well,” he said.
“The Colts defense has played well. They’re very aggressive up front so we’ve got our work cut out for us keeping them off of Aaron [Rodgers] and being able to open up some holes. I know I’ve got a job and I can’t get caught up in all the emotions of it, I’m going to have to separate that. Then maybe on the way out, I’ll get a little emotional then.”
One thing Saturday can expect. Over the years, when a former Colts player has returned with another team, the organization has put together a video honoring the player’s accomplishments while in Indianapolis. It usually occurs between the third and fourth quarters.
“I hope it’s a good one. I hope they put some good stuff up there. You appreciate it. As a player, man I gave the same as I’m doing here. I gave everything I had. I played as hard as I could,” he said. “I felt like I led the team on and off the field and did the best job that I could. I’m proud of the time that I was there and always look fondly upon that time.”
Saturday acknowledged, somewhat jokingly, that one of his biggest challenges today will be not ending up on the wrong sideline or in the wrong locker room.
“I don’t know, man. The crazy thing is I don’t think I’ve ever even been to the visitors’ locker room in Indy. I don’t even know where I’m going to be. It’s all going to look different … ,” he said.
“You’re so accustomed to seeing that blue and the horseshoe and the whole deal. Hopefully I don’t jog the wrong way early. I’ll turn around and head back towards the right side.”
Looking back over his career in Indianapolis, Saturday said that while the team’s success was nice, it was the relationships with his teammates, the coaches and the people in the building on West 56th Street that he misses the most.
“When you’re around a place for so long, I knew where everybody’s office was, I knew who was in charge of everything. Just getting accustomed to that, where’s the equipment room, where’s the equipment room? All those things are things you’ve just got to get used to,” he voiced.
“The culture of teams is so different. Just getting accustomed to all that has taken time and I feel like I’m in the groove here. I’m happy I’m here and it’s been fun to do.”
The question now is just how long Saturday remains with the Packers. He signed a two-year, $2.7 million contract with Green Bay in the offseason. Retirement was an option after last season, but he still had the desire to play.
“You know, I gave it it’s due consideration. I didn’t know what I was going to do to be very frank. I think I made that frank with everybody. I was going to give myself time to decide. I went through it, my wife and I prayed about it and talked about it,” he recalled.
“I felt like there was a very good opportunity for me in Green Bay. It got me excited. I got excited about the opportunity up here and decided a couple more years wouldn’t be too bad of a deal so I decided to head this way and I’m happy with the decision.”
One thing is certain. Whenever he does decide to call it quits, he will be returning to Indianapolis to live. He did not sell his house in the area when he signed with Green Bay. He wants to remain a Hoosier.
“I think Indy is eventually my home. That’s what my family, my wife, all three of my kids are Hoosiers. That’s what we know. Our church is there, my kids’ schools, everything is back there. We have made Indy our home for the 13 years I was there. We still have our home there and we’ll go back in the offseason,” Saturday said.
“I’m not planning to make any changes with that. I love that community and I’ve been very involved, and my wife has been very involved for so many years. I’m not going to pull up roots just because I’m not playing football. It’s a great place to raise a family and I’m very proud of the community I live in.”
Is there more of a future with the Colts at some point? Maybe.
“I don’t know. I know [team owner] Jim [Irsay] has made it very clear that the opportunity would be there. I’ll look at it. I strongly considered it this time. He made it an option before I even came back and played football. Jim has treated me as well as you could possibly ask for as an owner,” he praised.
“[Colts vice-president] Pete Ward the same way. Those guys have been just fantastic to me and have made it very clear that I’d be offered something and they would love me to be around the organization. To a man who’s worked as hard and given as much as I have to that organization, that feels awfully good.”