Irsay, Players, Coaches Bless Lucas Oil Stadium
INDIANAPOLIS – Jim Irsay considered the moment one to be remembered.
So, when Colts players and coaches gathered on Tuesday for the first time at Lucas Oil Stadium, Irsay – the Colts' Owner and Chief Executive Officer – gathered there, too.
He spoke to the players of the imance of the place where they stood.
He talked, too, of the team's history – of the Colts' former home in Indianapolis, the RCA Dome; and of their home before that, in Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, Md.
Then, he asked Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday to lead a prayer. Together, players, coaches and team officials knelt.
And then, Irsay said, Lucas Oil Stadium was ready.
"We wanted to kind of bless the building and kind of get it going," Irsay told reporters during the Colts' first practice at Lucas Oil Stadium, the new, state-of-the-art facility in downtown Indianapolis where the team will play home games beginning Sunday.
"It has been a great day for us."
Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said Irsay called him Monday about addressing the team before the first practice in the new stadium, which is across the street from the RCA Dome, where the team played home games the past 24 seasons.
"It was Jim's idea," Dungy said. "He asked Jeff Saturday to pray, just about our taking the field and taking the stadium. I thought it was very, very touching. I thought our players appreciated it. It was very, very special. That's one of the things Jim wanted to do."
"He said he wanted to address the team and he did. He talked about coming from Memorial Stadium to here, the steps that happened and thanking people who had gone into the process of getting a stadium. Then, he just felt it would be the right thing for us to do to have a prayer of blessing over the facility.
"It was something I really appreciated."
Before practice, players, coaches and team officials could be seen looking around the facility, pointing into the stands and toward the retractable roof, which was open throughout the two-hour session.
"It's huge," Colts safety Bob Sanders said. "I'm excited I think it's going to be a great thing for us to get started on a new year, a fresh year. Guys are coming back. For the fans, for the community, I think it's all around great for this city and state to bring the new stadium here and start new and bigger things and start a tradition of continuing to win like we have been."
Sanders said he was surprised – and pleased – with the proximity of the stands to the field.
"I thought they would be much further away, but they're right behind our benches," Sanders said. "That's definitely exciting, so they can experience it with us."
Irsay said he sensed the players' excitement over the new venue.
"I think the veterans who played in the RCA Dome can really have an appreciation knowing they were a part of this," Irsay said. "They can tell the difference and the contrast. The thing about new guys some time, it's like when you win a Super Bowl your rookie year or you come into a stadium like this as a rookie, you think that's the way it normally goes in the NFL.
"Sometimes, perspective isn't always there for the younger guys, but the veterans always kind of give them the perspective and let them know about the perspective of history."
While Dungy said he liked the white horseshoe in the blue seats of one end of the stadium, defensive end Dwight Freeney said he was impressed with a series of suites/seats located a few yards from one of the end zone, suggesting the Colts might begin a "Lucas Leap" similar to the Lambeau Leap in Green Bay.
"It's beautiful," Freeney said. "The roof opens up. You get a little outside atmosphere. The atmosphere seems like it's going to be great."
Dungy said the morning "was a great experience."
"I think our fans are going to be very pleased," Dungy said. "We'd heard all of the good comments from people who had been down over the weekend. Seeing it for yourself, it rang true. We got a good practice in down there and we'll start tomorrow (Wednesday) to get ready for Buffalo.
"There were a lot of eyes looking at a lot of different things – the video board, the advertising boards, the structure, the locker room – everything. There wasn't anything you saw that you said, 'Boy, they could have done this better,' or, 'I wish they'd done that.' It's just a well-done place and I think it's going to be a great place for us.
"We got accomplished everything we wanted to do today. The No. 1 thing was to go down to the stadium, learn our way around and see it. I'm glad we did. I'm glad the first time wasn't on Sunday, because it took a while to take everything in. I think our players and our staff came away with an impression that it's first class all the way."
Also on Tuesday, the Colts re-signed defensive lineman Dan Davis and released cornerback Antonio Smith.