Wayne reveals lack of relationship with Harrison, more Colts notes
Reggie Wayne says he hasn't spoken with Marvin Harrison since he left Indy
Peyton Manning, Drew Brees have relationship outside of football
More notes on Jack Youngblood, Austin Collie and Jim Caldwell
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Dispatches from the Colts' Thursday morning Super Bowl media session at their beachside hotel, hard by the Atlantic Ocean....
One of the stranger sights at the Super Bowl this week has been seeing a Colts player with the familiar name "Harrison'' stitched across the back of his blue No. 39 jersey -- which happens to belong, for the moment, to rookie practice squad defensive back Brandon Harrison. It's still making me do a double take every time, if only because I can't quite get used to the idea of Indianapolis being in the Super Bowl without Marvin Harrison, the franchise's all-time leading receiver.
I spent some time at Reggie Wayne's table during the Colts' media hour, and he said some pretty revealing stuff about Marvin Harrison, his longtime ex-teammate and fellow receiver. For starters, Wayne said he hasn't spoken with Harrison since he left the organization last year after 13 seasons with Indianapolis. Not once.
"I haven't talked to him since he left, man,'' Wayne told a small handful of reporters. "Marvin's very to himself. He's been like that forever. So I hope he's doing well. I'm pretty sure he is. From what I understand, he still wants to play. He's still hungry to play. Hopefully he'll get the opportunity to go out there and do what he wants.''
Harrison, 37, has yet to retire from the NFL, but no one signed him during the 2009 season. He was released at his own request by the Colts last offseason, after refusing to take a pay cut. Harrison's name, and a gun he owns, was linked to a shooting in Philadelphia in April 2008, with the victim alleging Harrison pulled the trigger. No charges against Harrison were ever filed in connection with that incident.
Harrison was always known for being a loner, even among his teammates, but to hear Wayne, who played alongside him for eight years, describe him as having lost total touch with his former team was shocking.
"It's not a surprise,'' Wayne said. "Our lockers were next to each other and we very seldom talked then. It's not like we were text message buddies in eight years. So I kind of figured it'd be that way. You've just got to understand his character.''
When a reporter asked if Harrison could have lingering bitterness about how he left the organization, Wayne said he wasn't sure, but didn't think so.
"I think that's just him,'' said Wayne, who once played in No. 88's shadow. "He's to himself. He has a lonely soul. He's anti-social. That's what makes him. If you saw him talking to the media all of a sudden, that's an imposter. That's not him. He'll keep the same makeup that he's had since day one, and I guess that's what works for him.''
Wow. Barely a year has gone by since their long and successful partnership broke up, and Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne don't even speak any more. That's stunning to me.
Three days out, here's my best guess at how the Colts' defensive line will deal with Dwight Freeney's ankle sprain on Sunday: I get the sense Freeney will see most of his action in passing situations, where he can at least try to pin his ears back and go after Drew Brees. I would expect Raheem Brock to handle the majority of the running downs at Freeney's left defensive end slot.
"Yeah, that's what we need him to do, rush the passer,'' Brock said Thursday. "I can be anywhere on third down. I can be at end, inside or stand up at linebacker and drop into coverage. I might get a couple more reps at left end on third downs. But we have a great defensive line, and everybody plays every position.
"We've done this before without Dwight. That's why we're not worried, and no one's panicking. We'd like to have Dwight out there. Who would want to play without him? But we're confident. Everybody feels good about it. If he can't play, everybody will pick up the slack, like we did earlier in the season when he was [injured].''
Even if Freeney plays, his injury probably means the Colts will find a few more snaps than usual for third-year defensive end Keyunta Dawson. Along with right end Robert Mathis, defensive tackles Eric Foster, Antonio Johnson and Daniel Muir round out what could be the Colts' seven-man defensive line on game day. Indy usually goes with six defensive linemen, but could be tempted to keep an extra man active against the Saints due to Freeney's ankle.
"As long as I'm contributing, I'll be OK with that,'' Freeney said, when I asked him if he would be satisfied with a scenario of playing on just passing downs. "Obviously the competitor in me, I want to be out there a lot more. But if it's not ready to that point, and they say, 'OK, Dwight, listen: You only have to play in certain situations, or whatever,' then I'm going to have to live with that. Maybe I can sneak in a couple extra plays here and there.''
I still don't think Freeney will be healthy enough to make much of an impact in the game, even if all he does is rush Brees on passing downs. Freeney's wheels are his game, and right now he has one very flat tire.
The irony is, other than the Colts, the Saints are clearly Peyton Manning's favorite team. And that means Brees might be his favorite non-related quarterback. Don't forget, Manning is a New Orleans native, and he first met Brees in 1999, when he was a second-year Indianapolis quarterback and Brees was starting for the in-state Purdue Boilermakers.
"Now that [Brees] is in New Orleans, he's a neighbor to my brother Cooper, and my parents have gotten to know Drew and his family,'' Manning said. "I just have an appreciation for guys that play for the New Orleans Saints, and that live there in the offseason. That they commit to the city year-round versus just playing there during the fall. And Drew has committed his efforts to the rebuilding of the city. As a native of New Orleans, Eli [Manning] and I certainly appreciate that.''
Two other quick topics touched on by Manning that I found interesting: First, he raved about how far the Colts-mad city of Indianapolis has come since he first arrived in 1998.
"It's always been a sports town, but now it's really turned into a football town, and that's the kind of place you want to play football in,'' Manning said. "People talk about the draft in January. They're not just talking about Indiana basketball, or talking about the pole position of the Indy 500. They're talking about the Colts now, so that's been exciting to see that change.''
Secondly, someone asked Manning when was the last time he missed a game? Manning just shrugged and kind of seemed at a loss for words for one of the rare times I've seen. Then he recovered and quipped: "You mean overslept, something like that?''
As it turns out, Manning said the last time he didn't play at all in one of his team's games was when he was a freshman at the University of Tennessee. He didn't start until the fifth game of that season, so he was a bystander for the first four weeks. Since then he has answered the bell. For more than 15 seasons and counting.
Former Rams defensive end Jack Youngblood rather famously played in his one and only Super Bowl, in 1980, against the Steelers, with a broken, non-weight-bearing bone in his leg. Youngblood reportedly said this week that Freeney should play against the Saints despite having a torn ligament in his ankle.
"I understand the old-school mentality,'' said Freeney, when a reporter relayed Youngblood's comments. "Strap it up and play. You got one leg? Well, just hop out there. It doesn't matter. I mean, I get it. But it's definitely different. It's a lot harder than that in a sense. But I'll see what happens.''
I asked Colts rookie receiver Austin Collie how many times he has seen the 46-yard thing-of-beauty catch he made against the Jets in the AFC Championship Game, which was the play that Manning called the biggest of the game? You remember it. Manning threw a perfect deep bomb that dropped into Collie's arms, just inches over cornerback Drew Coleman's out-stretched fingers.
"I've seen it a few times already, from a number of different angles,'' Collie said. "To be quite honest, from what I remember, Coleman came pretty close to tipping it. It was a pretty sweet play, and a pretty good throw from Peyton. I'd say that whole drive was probably the biggest plays of my career so far.''
Do you realize the Colts have now been to four Super Bowls, and four different head coaches have led them there? Don Shula in Super Bowl III against the Jets; Don McCafferty against the Cowboys in Super Bowl V, Tony Dungy against the Bears three years ago, and now Jim Caldwell against the Saints.
The only other franchise that has had four different Super Bowl head coaches is the Raiders: John Rauch, John Madden, Tom Flores and Bill Callahan. Pittsburgh, Denver, the Giants, New England and Dallas have all gone to the Super Bowl under three different head coaches.
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