No Time to Rest on Past Accomplishments, Irsay Says
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – To Jim Irsay, the timing is right.
The Colts not only will play in a new, state-of-the-art stadium – Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis – beginning later this month, they'll open the venue in the wake of one of the most successful stretches in franchise history.
Six consecutive playoff appearances and eight in the last nine years.
A franchise-record five consecutive AFC South titles.
Two AFC title-game appearances since 2003.
A World Championship two seasons ago.
Irsay, the Colts' Owner and Chief Executive Officer since 1997, made his first visit to the Colts 2008 Training Camp Wednesday afternoon, and after a one-hour practice, spoke to reers and media covering the team. Among the topics Irsay covered was what he considers one of the most important tasks facing the team:
Not resting on the accomplishments of the past decade, but rather, moving forward and improving.
And continuing to make history.
"I couldn't be more excited," Irsay said. "I think this franchise has a tremendous opportunity to affect the history books, to talk about being more than just a one-time championship team, to talk about looking back years from now and seeing how long over a period of time we were able to sustain greatness and continue to do the things and win more than one championship.
"We have that opportunity. It doesn't come easy. It has taken a lot of hard work. It has taken a lot of perseverance to get where we are now, but we know we have to continue to take it to the next level. To me, that's about being focused on every single detail. My interest is in the details, because that's what gets to the big stuff.
"My interest is in everyone that's in the circle, every employee in the building, every player, every coach. It's about being personally responsible about seeing what it takes to continue to stay and get down the road for another championship."
Irsay said considering the Colts' recent success, the time is right to open Lucas Oil Stadium. The Colts will play their first preseason game there against the Buffalo Bills on August 24, then open the regular-season in Lucas Oil Stadium against the Chicago Bears on NBC's Sunday Night Football September 7.
"In terms of going into the new stadium, the type of football team we have, it's really exciting," Irsay said. "We know we're in a really tough division and a tough conference, but it's really about paying attention to every detail, paying attention to today in training camp August 6 – what are we doing to get better and stay focused about the Bears game and taking it from there. I'm very interested as the owner of this team – going into my 37th year in the NFL – in doing more and being better and taking it to another level and making sure even though we've had people who have been around for a long time that there's a real recognition that it's about continuing to try to take it to another level, to be focused and understand that what you've done in the past really gets you nothing in 2008.
"It's really about being focused and wanting to be better and wanting it as much as we've ever wanted it."
Irsay said the Colts' ability to not focus on the past has been crucial to past success and will be so again this season.
"What you did before doesn't earn you anything," Irsay said. "It's very relevant and it starts with me that you're as hungry as ever and that you work hard on being better and learning from where you've gone. That message is in my message to (Colts President) Bill Polian, (Colts Head Coach) Tony Dungy and all of our veteran coaches and our players and people in our organization.
"I'm really interested in not resting on our laurels and knowing consciously you're competing against yourself and consciously there are people looking to knock you off because they want what you have.
"It's a very competitive league and competitive business, so that's where you sit and that's where it has been in the offseason. We have to make it happen and make it happen a day at a time.
"That's what training camp is about."
Irsay also discussed the team's injury status entering the second preseason game, with six players – including quarterback Peyton Manning, defensive end Dwight Freeney and safety Bob Sanders – on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
"Obviously, you don't prefer it," Irsay said. "You'd rather have situations where they're healthy and ready and early in training camp ready to go, but I think there's no doubt the good news is everyone should be 100 percent. There's no reason to think there would be any setbacks.
"The doctors tell me none of the injuries are injuries that would make them more prone to having the same injury. The guys are veteran players and they should be ready to go."
Irsay also said he had followed Manning's status throughout the offseason, and that there was part of him that was relieved when Manning underwent surgery to remove an infected bursa sac from his left knee 10 days before training camp.
"It's a debate: Do you drain it and hope it goes away or do you do something sooner?" Irsay said. "There's no easy answer. The doctors have to step up and offer some insight on that. It's been something I've been very aware of and it's something that if we hadn't done something and we were into mid- to late August, I would have probably been more concerned, because it can go away, but sometimes, it doesn't go away.
"I guess in the long run you wish none if it had occurred, but it was a positive in that it was able to be dealt with before the regular season starts."