Colts Hope Harrison Will Be Back to 100 Percent, Manning Says
INDIANAPOLIS – Peyton Manning said the situation is pretty clear.
The Colts not only believe eight-time wide receiver Marvin Harrison can return to 100 percent health, and he not only can play at the level that made him an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, he basically must do so.
The Colts, Manning said, need Harrison to return to his pre-2007 level. Very much so.
"I don't think there's any question he (Harrison) can still do it," Manning – the Colts' eight-time Pro Bowl quarterback – said on Friday, the first day of the Colts' three-day 2008 veteran/rookie minicamp, which is being held at the team's practice facility Friday through Sunday.
"Obviously, that's our hope, that he can be 100 percent healthy to be able to play against Chicago in the season opener."
Harrison, a Pro Bowl selection from 1999-2006, missed 11 regular-season games last season with a knee injury. He returned to start in the team's 28-24 loss to the San Diego Chargers in an AFC Divisional Playoff, but left late in the game.
Harrison recently has been the subject of an off-field issue, about which the team on Friday released the following statement: "With respect to questions regarding Marvin Harrison being interviewed by police in Philadelphia, we have nothing to add to (Colts President) Bill Polian's statement issued two weeks ago. We don't anticipate addressing any such questions unless and until there is an official reof the facts from the Philadelphia Police Department."
Polian's earlier statement read as follows: "We have no credible information at this time, and we will not comment until we do."
Harrison is attending this weekend's minicamp, Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said Friday, but like several other players rehabilitating injuries – including safety Bob Sanders and defensive end Dwight Freeney – he is not scheduled to participate in practice.
"We expect Marvin to be what he's always been," Dungy said. "We want to be a diverse offense and we want to have a lot of weaponry."
Dungy said there is little reason to think Harrison – who will turn 36 in August – won't be as critical a part of that offense as he has been for more than a decade.
"I remember a time when people thought (former San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders wide receiver) Jerry Rice was on the downhill side when he left San Francisco and he played quite a while after that," Dungy said. "Marvin is like Peyton in a lot of ways, in that it's going to be mental with him, how much longer he wanted to put in that grind of staying on top and practicing and working to stay at that level.
"Physically, I think he can do it for a number of more years."
Harrison, who averaged 103 receptions for 1,402 yards and 12.6 touchdowns a season from 1999-2006, caught 95 passes for 1,366 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2006. He played in five regular-season games in 2007, catching 20 passes for 247 yards and a touchdown.
Teammates said on Friday they have little doubt Harrison will be motivated to return to an elite level.
"I know just his nature and what he is," Colts center Jeff Saturday said. "He wants to set it straight that he is the go-to guy in our offense."
Manning said the Colts' recent actions have made it clear they are depending on Harrison to be at his pre-injury level.
"I know he's still going through his rehabilitation process," Manning said of Harrison. "That (a return to full health) is what we expect."
The Colts in the late April NFL Draft selected three offensive linemen, two tight ends, a defensive end, a linebacker and a running back. They also selected a wide receiver, but did not do so until using a sixth-round selection on Pierre Garcon, who played at Division III Mount Union (Ohio) College.
"That is why we didn't draft a wide receiver (early) in the draft or pick up a (high-profile) free agent, because Marvin has told us that he will be 100 percent healthy and ready to go," Manning said. "That's obviously what we need to be for our team to be as good as we can be in 2008."