INDIANAPOLIS – Jeff Saturday has been a battler throughout his NFL career. If he weren't, his career would have stopped after playing collegiately at North Carolina.
Waived after his first attempt at the NFL with Baltimore in 1998, Saturday plotted for another chance.
The chance came with the Colts in 1999, and Saturday has authored a career that has included 187 games played and 178 starting assignments. He has earned five Pro Bowl nominations, been a part of 11 playoff teams and seven division champions. He has played in three AFC Championship games, with two Super Bowl participants and on one World Championship team.
He is one of 13 players who have played in more than 100 regular-season victories in franchise history, and his total of 130 appearances in Colts victories ranks behind only Peyton Manning (141) and John Unitas (132).
When Saturday lines up on Sunday in New Orleans, he will tie David Lee for the sixth-most games played in franchise history.
None of these accomplishments would have been possible without all the attributes of a competitive athlete being in abundance in Saturday, and it means he has an aim as the club faces the 10 remaining regular-season games.
"10-6. What are we now, 0-6? 10-6 would be great. That's what I'm shooting for," said Saturday. "The way I look at it, I want to win them all. I've been on teams that can win them all. You can come real close in this game. Just because you're having a down stretch doesn't mean you throw the towel in, it doesn't mean you look for an average season. (If) we right the ship and start playing good football, we can do some good things."
Saturday and his 52 teammates cannot escape the team's difficult start. He is the last one to hide from the facts, and he is among the leaders on the club in addressing what it will take to correct matters.
"We're hurting ourselves," said Saturday. "We're doing things that we talk about week in and week out that we can't do. We can't lose the turnover battle, we did that (in Cincinnati last week). We made mistakes at critical times in the game, and it's little things here and there. That's the thing that's frustrating. I feel like we've got a good team. We've been in the last five games with a chance to win at the end, but haven't found a way to win.
"These guys, I have all the respect in the world for my teammates. Guys come and work hard, prepare as well as they can, practice as well as they can, but it's the little things on Sunday that are really catching up with us. It's the details. (Head Coach) Jim (Caldwell) has talked about it over and over, 'Take care of the little things, and the big things take care of themselves.' We're missing on too many of those little things."
Of the team's losses this year, four have come by single digits. Other than the opening game at Houston, the team has been in contention regularly. Victory certainly has been within reach. Coming close is not what by which any team is measured, let alone one that posted one of the most successful decades from 2000-09 and followed that by earning a ninth straight double-digit victory total and playoff berth in 2010.
Saturday is aware of that and his veteran nature and the accomplishments he has helped build only sharpen his resolve to return to winning ways.
"We're not getting walked all over every time we walk on the field," said Saturday. "We're in every game. We have opportunities to win, we just haven't found a way to do it. You can't put that on any player. It's us as a team, whether it's the offense not stepping up and making a play when we need to, however that shakes down. We have to find a way to win these games. Whoever can go out and make that play, that's what we need to get done."
This past week in Cincinnati, the club narrowed a 20-7 third-quarter deficit to 20-17 with just under 10 minutes to play. Indianapolis had a chance to tie the game with five and a half minutes remaining, but a field goal attempt failed. After Cincinnati missed a field goal of its own, the club had a post-reception fumble returned for a touchdown. The team trailed, 27-17, with just more than two minutes to go and trying to make something happen, Indianapolis suffered its third turnover of the contest.
It was a difficult ending for a team that fought, and the schedule takes Indianapolis to New Orleans for a Sunday Night contest with the potent Saints, a game that will be played in front of a national audience.
"It's not getting any easier. We've played good teams this year, and we've given ourselves an opportunity to win," said Saturday. "That's what we've got to go do again down there. We need to play well. We need to find ways to fix the errors we're making and not shoot ourselves in the foot. I think a lot of the things that we're doing are self-inflicted. I think guys are trying and giving 100 percent and probably then some. That's probably causing a little bit of it. We've got to go back to the drawing board."
Asked if his mind would re-visit two seasons ago when the Colts battled New Orleans in Super Bowl XLIV, Saturday mirrored what is felt by players and coaches trying to focus on the moment and return to the type of performances they have had many times in recent seasons.
"No. At 0-6, I have other things on my mind besides the Super Bowl years ago," said Saturday. "We need to right the ship we're on now and take care of this team. I feel like we can do it. We just have to make some strides."