INDIANAPOLIS – HARRISON JOINS RING OF HONOR – The Colts welcomed back one of their most accomplished players on Sunday when wide receiver Marvin Harrison was inducted into the Ring of Honor.
Joined by some family members at midfield, Harrison was introduced to the Lucas Oil Stadium crowd by Colts Owner and CEO Jim Irsay. At the conclusion of Irsay's remarks, Harrison's name was unveiled among the other Ring of Honor members – Robert Irsay, Bill Brooks, Chris Hinton, Jim Harbaugh, Ted Marchibroda, Tony Dungy and the 12th Man. Harrison's name will remain permanently on the Lucas Oil Stadium facade. Memories of his exploits will remain in the minds and hearts of Colts fans for just as long, too.
"Unbelievable. When Jim (Irsay) was telling me about the Ring of Honor I couldn't comprehend it, and I still don't to this day," Harrison said to Colts radio voice Bob Lamey during halftime. "But it's definitely a tremendous honor and the city of Indianapolis and the fans have been tremendously great to me, and just to go up in that Ring of Honor means a lot."
Throughout the video montage that played on the stadium message board that preceded the introduction, Colts players Dallas Clark, Peyton Manning and Jeff Saturday sang the praises of Harrison's constant work ethic.
"I don't know where it (his intense work ethic) came from, but you always want to go out here and compete and try to be better than your opponent," Harrison said. "So during practice I always wanted to be as good as I could possibly be. I didn't want to shortchange myself or the team, so when I had the opportunity to practice, I always had to be there."
Harrison played in 190 career games with the club from 1996-2008 and totaled 1,102 receptions for 14,580 yards and 128 touchdowns. His receptions, yards and scoring receptions broke club records held by Hall-of-Fame wide receiver Raymond Berry, marks that stood since 1967. Harrison had 59 100-yard reception games, third-most in NFL history. He caught passes in the first 190 games of his career, an NFL record.
Video clips showed a highlight reel of catches from Harrison's tenure with the Colts, but even he was hard-pressed to choose just one as a favorite.
"Not right off the top of my head, I can't remember an all-time catch," Harrison said. "Like (Colts Assistant Equipment Manager Brian) Seabrooks said, he always said, 'There's so many of them I can't choose just one.' It's just over time. Sometimes I amaze myself with those catches. But like I said, it comes with practice. The more you practice the more you get opportunities to make big plays."
Harrison set the NFL seasonal record with 143 receptions in 2002. From 1999-2002, he became the first NFL player with 100 receptions in four consecutive seasons. From 1999-2006, Harrison had eight consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, and he is the only player ever to produce eight straight seasons with 1,000 reception yards and 10 scoring receptions.
He credited his mother's work ethic for paving the way for him, and that is what he wants to pass down to his young son.
"When I was growing up, my mother had two jobs all of the time. She just likes to work and she still does it to this day. My family, that's what we do. We just like to work hard and work for everything we get."
Following the game, Head Coach Jim Caldwell said he was able to speak with Harrison prior to the Panthers contest.
"It looks like he can still play. But (it was) great to see him back," Caldwell said. "He was a great performer for us and just a tremendous team member as well."
Also at midfield with Irsay and Vice Chairman Bill Polian was the man responsible for many of Harrison's receptions, Peyton Manning.
"I thought the tribute was first-class and he (Marvin Harrison) definitely belongs in there on that Ring of Honor," Manning said. "It was good to visit with him. I wish he would have suited up and given us a few plays. He certainly looked like he could have. He looks like he is in great shape.
"He was unique, (an) unbelievable talented and (great) ability. What separated him I think was the combination of that with his work ethic. Every single day, he always practiced and always went against the first-team corner. He didn't want to go against a practice squad guy. He wanted to get challenged every single play. It was just special to see him work. (He was an) unbelievable fitness guy. Not a very impressive diet, candy bars and those kind of things, but they said his body fat was always two, three percent. He was a unique guy, unbelievable durability. Like I said on the monitor there, it was truly a privilege to say I played quarterback with Marvin Harrison, truly a privilege."
A day not far in the future could come when Harrison will get the call from Canton, Ohio to be chosen for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Harrison claims that is far from his mind right now.
"No, I haven't," said Harrison about thinking of that possible time. "But right now, I don't think anything could be as big as this (the Ring of Honor). Right here, I'm always going to be a part of the Indianapolis Colts and the Irsay family. So, it doesn't get any bigger than this for me. If that happens, the Hall of Fame, fine. But if it doesn't, I'm more than happy to be a part of the Indianapolis Colts for a lifetime."
ANDERSON PROVIDES SPARK BEFORE HALFTIME –For defensive end Jamaal Anderson the third time was the charm on Sunday.
After narrowly missing blocked kick attempts during the Panthers first extra point and field goal, Anderson used his persistence to block Olindo Mare's 45-yard field goal attempt to end the first half.
"The field goal before and the extra point I was getting good pressure, and it was funny Tyler (Brayton) said, 'You're going to get through there, you're going to get this one,' " Anderson said.
"We've been preaching about it all season that we are just so close, somewhat the story of our season. This time they let me clear free and I probably could have caught the ball. It hit me in my biceps and I've never blocked a field goal that clean."
It marked the first time since 2004 the Colts had blocked a kick when defensive tackle Larry Tripplett got his hands on one against Baltimore kicker Matt Stover.
"That was big, obviously," Caldwell said at halftime just seconds after Anderson's block. "That was a good effort. I'm not sure who got their hands on it, it might have been Jamaal (Anderson), but it was a good effort, a good push and the guys did a nice job."
The block kept the score knotted at 10 heading into halftime, which proved to be crucial in a game where the outcome went down to the final minute.
"One, it's momentum but the main thing is it takes points off the board," Anderson said. "You can consider it almost like a turnover. When you can take points off the board it's always a great positive, and I think usually special teams is always a momentum gainer or breaker. I think it gave us a lot of momentum going into halftime.
BROWN GETS OFF TO ANOTHER NICE START –The Colts welcomed the return of running back Joseph Addai to the starting lineup on Sunday, but once again it was Donald Brown who would pace the rushing attack.
Brown rushed for 80 yards on 14 carries, including a 17-yard touchdown run to give the Colts their first touchdown of the afternoon.
"The fullback did a great job leading and that left me one-on-one with the safety, so that's the running back's job to make him miss and put it into the end zone," Brown said of the touchdown.
That fullback was newly-acquired Ryan Mahaffey. The Colts ran out of the I-formation for much of the day using Mahaffey, a former Raven, as the fullback.
After Mahaffey left the game with a concussion, tight end Mike McNeill took over in the backfield.
"I played it during the preseason, so I'm familiar and I've been in all the meetings for the fullbacks just always as a safety blanket," McNeill said. "Then this week I took a couple reps just to make sure I knew what I was doing. Sure enough when (Ryan) went down I had to step up and play. I knew what I was doing, so it really wasn't that big of a deal."
Brown ran for 47 yards in the first half, which upped his total to 150 rushing yards in the first halves of the past three games combined.
"I think we got into a rhythm," McNeill said. "The offensive line was doing a great job and when the running backs are getting into the third level with the safeties, it's an easy day."
The Colts averaged 4.6 yards a carry on Sunday and finished the afternoon with 105 yards rushing.
McNeill is Nebraska's all-time leading receiver at tight end but his role changed a little bit on Sunday.
"We ran it a few times and it started working so we just decided to stick with it," McNeill said of the I-formation. "Obviously we are not a huge I-formation team but when something's working you stick with it."