Rookie Produces in Big Way in NFL Debut
CANTON, Ohio – For Mike Hart, it was only a first step.
But as far as first steps go, Hart's first preseason NFL game certainly could have been worse.
Hart, a Colts rookie running back from the University of Michigan, entered the preseason-opening Hall of Fame Game in the third quarter on Sunday night.
By the time the quarter was over, Hart was the club's leading rusher.
Hart, a sixth-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft, and Michigan's all-time leading rusher, rushed just four times in the Colts' 30-16 loss to the Washington Redskins on Sunday night. But on those four carries, he gained 53 yards to lead all Colts rushers.
"The line did a great job," Hart said. "If you notice, every run I had, the line did a great job. There was always a hole for me to get through. I'm not going to be able to get any yards if the line's not blocking. They did a great job, so they get the credit, definitely."
Hart also caught three passes for 28 yards, and Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said Hart did what he has done throughout training camp: play solidly, consistently and productively.
"We've seen that from Mike for four years of college and we've seen it every day in practice," Dungy said. "He just continues to run hard and block well and catch the ball – do the things you need to get done."
Hart currently is among several running backs on the Colts' roster competing for time behind third-year veteran and 2007 Pro Bowl selection Joseph Addai: eight-year veteran Dominic Rhodes, second-year veteran Kenton Keith, second-year veteran Clifton Dawson and rookie Chad Simpson.
"I'm just playing as good as I can," Hart said. "That's the only thing I can handle, is how I play on the field. I have to go out there and try not to make mistakes and do the best I can. It's up to the coaches and Mr. (Colts President Bill) Polian after that."
Hart has experienced big-time success at every level of football. He holds national high school records for touchdowns in a career (204), most consecutive 100-yard rushing games (47), career 100-yard rushing games (27) and career points (1,246).
At Michigan, he rushed for 5,040 yards and 41 touchdowns on 1,015 carries, finishing his career as the school's all-time leading rusher.
But because of his size, many believed he couldn't make it in the NFL.
"It helps me a lot," Hart said of Sunday night's performance. "I think the more you play, the more confidence you get. You see five-, six-year vets in the league, they have confidence. As a rookie, the more experience I get, the more it's going to help me out as a player."
Still, Hart said he knows as many yards as he gained on Sunday, the performance was just a step.
"It's just one game – you know what I mean?" Hart said. "You have to do it every game. It doesn't matter if I play great this game and the next four games I go out there and don't do anything. I just have to come out here and be consistent and do the best I can."
SOLID PROGRESSION: The next step for quarterback Peyton Manning? Rehabilitation.
Manning has missed the first week and a half of Colts 2008 Training Camp while recovering from surgery to remove an infected bursa sac from his left knee. Polian said the infection has been eliminated, meaning the rehabilitation process can begin and added that Manning is on schedule.
"The good news is the infection is essentially eliminated," Polian said Sunday. "The infectious disease doctor has signed off on that. There's no structural damage to the knee, so that's the only serious problem. That has been eliminated so now you're on to the rehab process.
"He's working on range of motion. It's just a process."
Manning is one of six players currently on the Physically Unable to Perform list, with the others being safety Bob Sanders (shoulder), defensive end Dwight Freeney (foot), linebacker Tyjuan Hagler (pectoral), offensive guard Ryan Lilja (knee) and Tom Santi (knee).
Freeney worked out on Saturday and Sunday with the Colts' physical therapists and Polian said he is doing well, while Sanders "is right on schedule, maybe a little ahead."
Polian said Santi is making progress, and that he expects Lilja to be ready for the season.
In other Colts news, Polian said while wide receiver Marvin Harrison didn't make the trip, he "came through the (first) week (of practice) in really good shape and good spirits."
Harrison missed 11 games last season with a knee injury and did not participate in the team's mini-camp.
Also Sunday, Polian said second-year cornerback Michael Coe will undergo surgery, but that it "shouldn't be a season-ending issue" and that rookie linebacker Philip Wheeler has a knee injury that "should come a little faster."
Polian said while linebacker while Clint Session missed the preseason opener with a calf injury the injury is considered "relatively short-term."
Polian said despite the injuries, he has been pleased with the first week and a half of training camp.
"The work has been good; the injuries haven't been," Polian said. "We just need to work through it. Every general manger in the league sings the same song at this time of year. We're all worried to death about injuries.
"This last week hasn't been good for us, but you have to fight your way through it and hope that the guys who are out are out for a short period of time and not a long period of time."
NO WORD ON MORRIS: While Dungy said this week the team may consider re-signing veteran linebacker Rob Morris, Polian said the move isn't imminent.
"Nothing there at the moment," Polian said. "I don't even know what his physical status is right now. I don't believe he's ready to play football at this point. You'd have to determine where he is football-wise first."
Morris, the Colts' 2000 first-round draft selection, played the last eight seasons with the Colts and is currently a free agent.
ETC., ETC.: Colts running back Joseph Addai sustained a first-quarter head injury and did not return. "Joseph was fine," Dungy said afterward. "He was ready to go back in the game. The first group was out at that point, but he's fine." . . . Polian on the preseason: "We want to see who jumps out and makes plays in the ballgame. We want to see how all the new players perform under pressure, and particularly who distinguish themselves and who jumps out from the vast majority, you might say. It's the same every year. There are always surprises – a player who you didn't think was doing so well in camp, the lights go on and he does particularly well. It's always a very interesting process and I look forward to it."
HOW THEY SCORED
COLTS 03 10 03 00 – 16
REDSKINS 07 02 07 14 – 30
REDSKINS 7, COLTS 0
Antwaan Randle El 20 pass from Jason Campbell (Shaun Suisham kick), 13:43 remaining first quarter. Drive: Three plays, 45 yards, 1:17. Key play: Chris Horton recovers onside kick at Colts 45.
REDSKINS 7, COLTS 3
Adam Vinatieri 26 FG, 6:55 remaining first quarter. Drive: 16 plays, 73 yards, 6:48. Key play: Gijon Robinson 10 pass fro