Whatever decision the Indianapolis Colts ultimately make on who will be the team’s starting quarterback in 2012, the job will ultimately be in good hands.
The Colts can opt to re-sign four-time NFL Most Valuable Player Peyton Manning when his $28 million team bonus comes due March 8. Conversely, Indianapolis officials also can release Manning and choose between Stanford’s Andrew Luck or Baylor’s Robert Griffin III when it comes time to use the No. 1 pick in April’s NFL Draft.
Or the team can have the best of both worlds by keeping the franchise’s iconic signal-caller around a while longer and selecting one of the two highly rated prospects. The possibilities are interesting, to say the least.
Conventional wisdom has the Colts and Manning — who has undergone four medical procedures on his neck over the past 19 months — parting ways after 14 successful seasons. And if there ever was a time for a split to occur, this would appear to be the perfect situation because Luck and Griffin are considered “can’t miss” candidates.
Which is why all eyes were on the two former college QBs when they met with the media Friday at the National Football Scouting Combine. They didn’t disappoint.
Griffin, the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner, was loose and relaxed. He was impressive, composed and sure of himself. Luck, on the other hand, was a little more reserved, but answered questions confidently. Both were imminently likeable and said the right things.
Neither will throw during the combine, planning instead to wait until their own personal on-campus workouts later this spring.
Instead they will meet with teams for one-on-one interviews, undergo medical tests and go through a few on-the-field drills. Griffin has already talked to Philadelphia and was scheduled to get together with representatives from Kansas City and Cleveland on Friday evening. Luck, meanwhile, met with Colts quarterback coach Clyde Christensen on Thursday night.
“On the field, we’ll be running. Get out there, move around, have fun, compete. Just looking forward to just show [teams] who I am. Let them get to know me, I get to know them,” Griffin said, adding that it was his own decision not to throw this weekend.
“You don’t go somewhere and run a game plan. You don’t throw to guys you don’t practice with. And you’re in an environment that you’re not prepared for. That’s why [he’s not going to throw]. I’m just really excited to really show them who I am as a person. Happy go lucky, like to make people laugh but know when to be serious as well.”
Luck said that after talking with his father — former NFL quarterback Oliver Luck — as well as his agent, he made the decision to sit out the combine’s passing drills.
“Nobody advised me not to throw. Now is not the place. I made the decision by myself. I bounced it off my agent and my father and felt like it was in my best interest to wait until Pro Day,” he explained.
When the topic of Manning came up, both were respectful of the situation. They also didn’t shy away from the idea of serving an apprenticeship for a couple of seasons if need be.
“I’ve talked to Peyton a couple of times. I wish him the best. I hope what he wants can come about from the situation. It would be amazing for him to stay in Indy and play out his career,” Griffin said. “I would embrace [playing behind Manning]. It’s not very often you get chances to play or to be on a team with a legend like that and learn from a guy like Peyton.
“Definitely, I would come in and compete to be that starter. But I definitely wouldn’t be upset if Peyton Manning was the starting quarterback of the team that I’m on. It would be an honor to sit behind him and learn. I’d hold that clipboard with pride. I’d have no problem with that. I wouldn’t come in and demand to be the starter.”
Luck had a similar response.
“I understand it’s a possibility [of being drafted by the Colts]. Peyton was my hero growing up. He was my football hero. That’s who I modeled myself after in high school. You never truly replace a guy like that. And who knows what happens. So many different things can happen,” he said.
“I understand the speculation. But nothing’s happened yet. I haven’t been drafted by any team. And obviously, with Peyton, that’s still going on with the Colts. It’s not uncomfortable. I understand the questions have to be asked. If I have an opportunity to learn from a guy like that, of course I’m going to take advantage of it. Absolutely. If you have a chance to learn from a guy like Peyton Manning, if that chance arises, you’d better take advantage of it. He’s arguably the best quarterback ever.”
• Quarterback tidbits — Luck was coached in college by former Colts quarterback Jim Harbaugh, who proceeded Manning as the starter in Indianapolis. Harbaugh is part of the team’s Ring of Honor at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“Know all about [Harbaugh’s career with the Colts]. Captain Comeback and all that,” Luck joked.
Griffin, meanwhile, comes from a strong military background as his father was in the service for 21 years and his mother served for 12 years.
“They served in two wars, so discipline was something that was obviously huge,” he recalled. “When you say you’re going to do something, you do it. When you start it, you finish it. You’ve got to have that kind of structure in your life. So that helped me be that disciplined person that I am.”
He was recruited to Stanford by Harbaugh, but opted instead to go to Baylor.
“[Luck] was already committed and the two-quarterback thing doesn’t work. So I didn’t want me to be the one to transfer or Andrew be the one to transfer, so I decided to go to a different college,” Griffin said. “But I liked Stanford and Coach Harbaugh.”
Whatever decision the Indianapolis Colts ultimately make on who will be the team’s starting quarterback in 2012, the job will ultimately be in good hands.
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While this year’s class may not rival that group in terms of name recognition and flash, it may produce just as many major contributors once the 2013 season gets underway.
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The draft begins at 8 p.m. — televised by the NFL Network and ESPN — with the Kansas City Chiefs making the night’s first selection. Teams will have 10 minutes to make their decisions during the first round. Indianapolis will have the 24th overall pick in the first round.
There will be only one round tonight. The second and third rounds are scheduled for Friday, beginning at 6:30 p.m. with seven minutes allotted per pick in the second round and five minutes allowed in the third. The final four rounds are slated to begin at noon Saturday with four minutes between selections.
As it stands now, Indianapolis does not have a second-round pick. It was traded to Miami last fall in exchange for veteran cornerback Vontae Davis. But second-year general manager Ryan Grigson has nut ruled out the possibility of trading down from the first round if the Colts aren’t satisfied with the players available.
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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.”
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That was especially true for the five veteran free agents who were added to the Colts’ roster Tuesday. Offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus (Detroit), cornerback Greg Toler (Arizona), outside linebacker Erik Walden (Green Bay), offensive guard Donald Thomas (New England) and linebacker Lawrence Sidbury (Atlanta) admitted as much Wednesday.
“I felt like this would be the best fit for me at this point in my career. I really liked what I saw was happening with the program here and the way things have taken shape. I feel like we have a really great team here and it’s on the rise. I really wanted to be a part of that,” Thomas said during a teleconference interview with the Colts’ media.
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Jeff Saturday retires as a Colt
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Indianapolis franchises punter McAfee
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McAfee, an unrestricted free agent who’s contract is due to expire March 12, was designated as the Colts’ franchise player Friday. The move allows Indianapolis extra time to work out a long-term deal for the team’s special-teams ace.
“He’s huge. He’s a major priority in free agency. Obviously, we’ve reached out and are working to get Pat re-signed,” Pagano said during the National Football Scouting Combine. “We saw what he did for us last year. He’s a great weapon, not only kickoffs and touchbacks.
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Back and ready to go.
That’s the attitude Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano is taking during the National Football Scouting Combine, which completed its second day of operations Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium. During a wide-ranging press conference at the combine, Pagano confirmed that he is back to a full work regimen after missing 12 games last fall as he battled a rare form of leukemia.
After undergoing cancer treatments that featured heavy doses of chemotherapy, the second-year head coach was able to return to the sidelines for Indianapolis’ final regular-season home game against Houston and for the team’s AFC wild-card matchup with eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore.
Colts looking forward to different approach to draft in 2013
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It was a foregone conclusion that the Colts would select former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the selection. While Indianapolis front office and player personnel officials certainly had to do their due diligence in preparing for the draft, the Colts find themselves this year in a bit different situation.
The team will have the 24th overall pick in the first round, which is a double-edged sword. Indianapolis picks lower in the round due to a successful season. But the pool of available can’t-miss talent isn’t quite as plentiful as drafting earlier in the round.
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