ANDERSON, Ind. – It's a weekend NFL owners would dream to have happen for their organization.
Two of their own going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
There's no need to pinch Jim Irsay.
It's a reality.
This weekend, Irsay will watch Tony Dungy and Marvin Harrison go into the Hall, and then see his 2016 Colts begin their preseason on Sunday night in Canton.
On Tuesday night in Anderson, Irsay spoke to the media at the team's annual Training Camp night practice.
Irsay touched on just how special this weekend is, what he will say in presenting Harrison, his excitement for the 2016 season to begin and the joy in having Andrew Luck back healthy.
On going to Canton this weekend for the induction ceremonies of Tony Dungy and Marvin Harrison, followed by the team's preseason opener:
"We have two great Colts going into the Hall of Fame and just telling people out here today how special that is, how rare that is. We have two going in, two deserving, great horseshoe guys. I am going to go there Thursday. I have to follow Marvin (Harrison) around and keep track of him and do parades and black tie dinners. I can't wait to give him his gold jacket and I know Donnie Shell will be there for Tony (Dungy)."
On what he will say in presenting Marvin Harrison into the Hall of Fame:
"Again, Peyton (Manning) and I had some long conversations about Marvin. Obviously, I go back even before Peyton was even here and remember being in the locker room in 1996 when he came in. We thought, 'Hey, this guy at least will be a heck of a punt returner and he has got quicks. At least he'll be able to do punts for us.' But again, going to talk about his work ethic – what a craftsman he was, what an artist and how hard he worked. How he never ever got tired. He was just so special. It's going to be just an honor to be there because again, I really believe his specialness is very unique. I think there are some rooms, some floors higher in the Hall of Fame that are a little bit higher. I think he's in that type of floor. He was such a rare player of greatness. Quite frankly, as you guys know, he couldn't be covered. They had to change the rules to make sure some of our competitors were holding him, I won't mention who and when, but Bill Polian could tell you now I'm sure if you asked him.
"Anyway, I'm just going to talk about his work ethic, and again, God gave him those gifts but his gift back to God is how hard he worked. Again, you can sum up Marvin's career and what he thinks about playing football in the NFL by him saying, 'You pay me to practice, Sunday is free.' And that's the way he did it. So just special. Obviously, Tony means so much to us going in. I can remember when we had to make a directional change on Jim Mora, and immediately calling Tony Dungy up when I knew he was available even before I talked to Bill Polian about it. Had a long, long conversation with him and knew he was our guy. Then, talked to Bill, and Bill talked to him and agreed, and the rest is history. So it's going to be really exciting."
On if this season feels any different after the "distractions" of last year:
"Honestly, what goes on internally versus what gets reported or what have you, can be a little different. Sometimes, honestly, last year it wasn't that there was some distraction or Chuck's (Pagano) lame duck status or Ryan (Grigson) and Chuck's relationship was difficult so that made us struggle. Really it was more of a year where our franchise quarterback got hurt. If that didn't happen, who knows what kind of year we would have had. But no, it feels good having continuity knowing that I've invested so much time and money into these guys that they are going to be with the Colts. Using all of the things that they've learned to become great general manager/head coaches. I was just talking to them about how it must feel having their recent guys that were in their positions before both being in the Hall of Fame now. But I'm excited. They have a great relationship. Obviously Chuck and Ryan have a great relationship.
"Andrew is feeling really healthy. He feels great and that makes me feel great because, yeah, we're under the radar, but we have Andrew Luck. Andrew understands what those expectations mean. I think we all know every year Andrew is in the discussions about being an MVP of the league type of guy. We are having a great year, and look at it, it's a quarterback driven league there's no question about it. And we want to do everything we can to get him the position to play great and be in that three or four guys in the league that's talked about for the MVP. That's the way it should be every year. He's up to the challenge. He knows the pressures that come with being Andrew Luck. He's a special young man. He's excited. He's in his prime. And yeah the division has gotten a lot better. It's going to be tougher. It's a tough schedule having five preseason games and having to go to London so we're going to have to be ready. There are some question marks. There are some young guys that are going to have to come through. But again, I think we have some great leadership with guys like Frank Gore, Robert Mathis that are still on this football team. It's going to be bringing along the new generation of players with this draft is going to be critically important. I think there's a chance all four of those offensive linemen we drafted will make the team. So we're looking forward to it. Obviously it's a challenge and nothing is given in terms of us having anything guaranteed. All we know is we play the Detroit Lions. That's the absolute only thing we know and that's the only thing we care about right now."
On a philosophical shift of having to develop young players in the immediate future:
"Well I think, again, you're right, but it hasn't really been a philosophical shift for the organization. It's been a natural process that both Ryan and Chuck know about. They were told about it by me. Not warned about it, but simply advised that, hey, as this team matures and we pay the T.Y. Hiltons, Castonzos, Andrew Lucks there's only going to be so much money for big time free agents and the draft is critical. But it's always been through the draft. That's your bloodline there's no question about it. But it is a little bit different now from that aspect and everyone is good with that. Chuck and Ryan both know they have to adjust to the times and take what they've learned and advance with that maturity. We know that's the way it is. It's not necessarily our plan. It's what happens when you have a lot of success. While we've had a lot of success and we're blessed to have had it. But again, going forward, the division is tougher. We've got a lot of challenges and we have to get off to a 1-0 start is the goal."