Colts Will Begin Preparations for Regular-Season Opener Wednesday, Dungy Says
INDIANAPOLIS – As Tony Dungy sees it, the preliminaries are over.
The Colts, after trimming the roster to the league-mandated regular-season limit of 53 this past weekend, gathered at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football on Monday. Although they didn't begin preparations specifically for the regular-season opener, Dungy – entering his seventh season as the Colts' head coach – said this much is clear:
The regular season is here. At last.
"It is fun to be here at the start of the regular season and to get work in and get rolling," Dungy said Monday afternoon, adding that the team on Wednesday will begin full-scale preparations for the regular-season opener against Chicago at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday at 8 p.m.
"I think this is what everybody looks forward to. The first part of the year is getting our team and getting ourselves organized – getting what we think is the best 53-man team ready to go. Now, it gets into preparation, actually getting ready for game week, preparing for the Bears.
"It's going to be fun. We're looking forward to it."
The Colts on Monday afternoon went through a brief practice that Dungy said didn't focus on Chicago. Dungy said the focus on Chicago will begin Wednesday.
"We just want to come in and get good work, get our whole group here and get that weekend kind of run out of us and be ready to go Wednesday," Dungy said.
While speaking to the media on Monday, Dungy for the first time publicly addressed the moves made Saturday as the Colts trimmed their roster from 75 to 53 players.
"We probably leaned a little more heavily on defense than we normally do," Dungy said of the moves. "We've got some versatile players on offense. We decided to keep four tight ends (Dallas Clark, rookie Jacob Tamme, rookie Tom Santi and veteran Gijon Robinson) rather than keep four running backs (where the team kept veterans Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes and rookie Mike Hart).
"(Veteran wide receivers) Courtney Roby and Roy Hall do some very good things on special teams and that kind of tipped the scale at wide receiver."
The Colts released 20 players, placing offensive guard Ryan Lilja and linebacker Tyjuan Hagler on the Physically Unable to Perform list, a move that means the players must miss at least the regular-season's first six weeks. At that point, the team will have the option of activating the players.
"It looks like they both could possibly play and be ready before that six-game window," Dungy said. "We just thought it was best for the long haul to leave them both where they are even if they are going to be physically ready to go a week or two ahead of time. It didn't seem worth the risk to us."
Dungy said the decision to release veteran quarterbacks Jared Lorenzen and Quinn Gray came because starter Peyton Manning and Jim Sorgi – each of whom dealt with knee injuries during training camp and preseason – appear ready.
"Everything that we hear that looks like it's going to be the case," Dungy said. "We have been a two-quarterback team and right now, we just felt that's the way we'd go and we felt like we'd be fine."
Also, Dungy said veteran Dan Federkeil and Charlie Johnson would be the starting guards if the game were played Monday. Offensive guard Mike Pollak sustained a knee injury in preseason and Dungy said he is unlikely to play Sunday.
Center Jeff Saturday, who also sustained a preseason knee injury, also isn't likely to play Sunday, Dungy said.
"We're kind of planning on Mike and Jeff not playing," Dungy said.
Dungy said rookie Jamey Richard or rookie Steve Justice likely will start at center.
"We're probably going to look very similar to how we looked the last preseason game where we played everyone," Dungy said. "The question is who will play center. We're going to work Jamey Richard and Steve Justice in there. We'll see how it goes."
The Colts continued to hone their 53-man regular-season roster, releasing safety Jamie Silva and linebacker Ramon Guzman and claiming linebacker Buster Davis and defensive tackle Daniel Muir off waivers.
Davis, a second-year veteran from Florida State University, played in one game last season for the Detroit Lions. Muir, a second-year veteran from Kent State, played in three games last season for Green Bay.
"We thought we had a chance to upgrade our linebacker corps and Dan Muir was a guy that (Colts President) Bill (Polian) saw and showed me the tape on him," Dungy said. "He thought he would be a good, bigger body to help us shore up the interior of our line. We think those two guys are going to help us.
"We like where we are right now."
Guzman, a second-year veteran from Buffalo, played 16 games for the Colts last season, playing mostly on special teams and finishing the season with five defensive tackles and a fumble recovery. He had 11 tackles on special teams.
The Colts signed Silva from Boston College as a free agent shortly before 2008 NFL Draft.
The release of Silva left the Colts with 12 rookies on the 53-man roster. All nine players selected in the 2008 NFL Draft – guard Mike Pollak, linebacker Philip Wheeler, tight end Jacob Tamme, defensive end Marcus Howard, running back Mike Hart, wide receiver Pierre Garcon, guard Steve Justice and center/guard Jamey Richard – are now on the 53-man roster, as are three rookie free agents: defensive end Curtis Johnson, linebacker Jordan Senn and defensive tackle Eric Foster.
"Where we are salary cap-wise, we're going to have to continue to have young players play for us," Dungy said. "For us, between eight and 13-to-14 rookies is probably the way it will be for the next few years. We say when our guys come in that that's why we practice the way we do and why it's so imant for those guys to get with the veterans because everybody on our team is going to play at some point during the year and everybody's going to play big roles."
The Colts' eight-man practice squad will be finalized Wednesday, Dungy said.