"The '09 Season is in the Books," Colts President Bill Polian Says
INDIANAPOLIS – The season that ended this past Sunday was a memorable one.
It should, Colts President Bill Polian said Friday, be celebrated, appreciated and remembered as not only a successful season, but one in which the franchise overcame adversity and injury to win a second AFC Championship in four seasons.
But Polian said something else is equally true, and more imant:
The season is over now. It's time to move forward.
"The '09 season is in the books," Polian said late Friday afternoon at a press conference wrapping up the Colts' 2009 season, which ended this past Sunday with a 31-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV at Sun Life Stadium in South Florida.
"It is relegated to history of the league and a new season begins – has begun. The new season began last Tuesday."
Polian said the Colts overcame extreme difficulties this past season.
The Colts finished the season without not only two-time Pro Bowl safety Bob Sanders, but cornerback Marlin Jackson, reserve quarterback Jim Sorgi, kicker Adam Vinatieri, wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez and linebacker Tyjuan Hagler.
Making the Super Bowl without such players was a major accomplishment, Polian said.
"You probably couldn't have found very many people who would have wagered anything on that outcome," he said. "If you told me that we would survive all of these injuries in August, I think I probably would have disagreed with you."
Polian also lauded first-year Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell "and a great coaching staff" for negotiating the team through what at times was a rough season.
"I can't say enough about the job that Jim and the coaching staff did," Polian said. "He kept the team focused through lots of injuries and lots of strife. He kept them on an even keel, playing with both confidence and abandon. To their everlasting credit, they listened.
"They listened to one voice, the right voice, and he guided them all the way."
Polian also credited the college scouting and pro personnel staffs, particularly regarding the mid-season addition of kicker Matt Stover, who played much of the season in place of Vinatieri.
"Just a great job," Polian said.
The end result, Polian said, "was a very, very memorable season."
"We came up a little short, but that does not in any way diminish the great job that everybody did here," Polian said, "including the fans, who stayed with us during a difficult period and really gave us the push we needed in the playoffs. We're very grateful for them and very happy to have them on our side."
With the next major date on the NFL calendar the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine in late February at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Polian said the Colts will sit down as a staff "after an appropriate period of time" and evaluate personnel.
"We'll do all we can to improve, and we'll do it with the idea that every season is a new season," Polian said.
Polian, who was the general manager of the Buffalo Bills in the early 1990s – a time when that franchise returned to the Super Bowl three times after losing the Super Bowl the year before – said there is no specific message to be sent to players when approaching a season after a Super Bowl loss.
"There is no carryover," Polian said. "What we did this year doesn't count. What we do to prepare to get ready and continue on next year is what counts. There is no hangover. It's a brand new season. That's the position we'll take. That's the position the players will take. That's the position the coaches will take. That's the position this organization will take and has already taken.
"We're on the way to dealing with 2010."
Overall, Polian said the season was very much a team effort, with reserves playing key roles in place of injured starters and players from every position making key contributions throughout the season.
"I think we got great contributions virtually from everybody during the course of this season," Polian said. "This was a team that truly was a 53-man team – maybe a 56-man team, a 58-man team. We got great contributions from everybody throughout."
Polian also said:
• He expects all players who finished the season on injured reserve, a list that includes Sanders, Gonzalez, Sorgi and Hagler, to be ready for next season. "We're far from complete in our medical analysis at this point in time," Polian said, "but there are no red flags out there that would tell me there's anything troubling on the horizon with any of those fellows."
• He doesn't expect defensive end Dwight Freeney (ankle) to undergo offseason surgery.
• He won't know the Colts' approach to unrestricted and restricted free agency until the league determines its labor situation. He said that may not be known until the start of the new league year on March 5. Middle linebacker Gary Brackett is the only player who will become an unrestricted free agent whatever the status of the NFL's Collective Bargaining Agreement.
• An announcement regarding the team's offensive line position will be made by Caldwell "when it's appropriate." Senior Offensive Line Coach Howard Mudd said throughout the season he planned to retire after the season, and asked about the status of Senior Offensive Coordinator Tom Moore, Polian said, "I do not know."
• He did not wish to comment on the ongoing labor talks between the league and the NFL Players Association. "I would like not to be fined," Polian said, smiling.
• Manning played well in the Super Bowl. "I thought his performance was great, as was (Saints quarterback) Drew (Brees)' – two great quarterbacks and they put on a great show," Polian said.
• Offensive tackle Tony Ugoh and offensive guard Mike Pollak likely will be part of the offensive line going forward. "I would think yes – I think they have a role without question," Polian said.
• Sorgi likely will return healthy next season. "All signs point to that," he said.