Morris, McFarland Releases Difficult, Polian and Dungy Say
INDIANAPOLIS - Rob Morris and Anthony "Booger" McFarland were this year's victims of one of the NFL's most painful times.
Still, their Colts careers aren't necessarily over.
Morris, an eight-year veteran outside linebacker, and McFarland – a nine-year veteran defensive tackle – were each released by the Colts on Wednesday, moves Colts President Bill Polian and Head Coach Tony Dungy each described Thursday as painful and difficult.
But Polian said the moves don't mean neither will play for the Colts again.
"I think there's a real possibility that we're going to revisit that," Polian said Thursday afternoon, a day before the opening of the NFL's league year and its free-agency period, which begins Friday at 12:01 a.m.
"I think a lot depends on what happens financially in the marketplace with respect to both us and them. We'll see where it goes. It's certainly something we'll revisit at the appropriate time, which is down the road, after the dust of this next couple of weeks settles."
McFarland and Morris were each critical to the Colts' run to a Super Bowl title following the 2006 season. Each missed significant time last season with knee injuries.
"It's very, very hard to deal with, because they're both really good guys," Dungy said. "They're both, I think, still able to play and both have made such contributions, so you're just trying to balance it out. You're trying to do what's best for the team. It's one of those inevitable things, but it's not that's pleasant at all or fun. . . .
"You've got guys who are so hard-working and been so good for you, but you have to look at what's best for this 2008 team."
McFarland, acquired from Tampa Bay in October 2006 in exchange for a second-round selection in the 2007 NFL Draft, started 11 regular-season games for the Colts in 2006. He was key to the team's defensive postseason resurgence that season, starting all four postseason games, including the Colts' 29-17 victory over Chicago in Super Bowl XLI, and had 12 postseason tackles, nine solos, and two sacks.
He entered training camp this past season as a starter, but sustained a knee injury early in camp and was placed on injured reserve shortly thereafter. He did not play a snap this past season.
Morris, the 28th overall selection by the Colts in 2000, started at middle linebacker from 2001-2004, then played a key role on special teams and as a backup linebacker in 2005. He returned to the starting lineup at strong-side linebacker in place of Gilbert Gardner for the last three 2006 regular-season games.
He then started all four games in the postseason. He began this past season as a starter at outside linebacker, starting two games before sustaining a season-ending knee injury against Denver on September 30.
"It's very difficult," Polian said of the releases. "It's the hardest thing I have to do in this business, is say goodbye to people – even if it's only temy – that are really good people and people who have given you a lot. It's difficult. It's not easy, but as I've said many times, you have to separate the personal from the professional. You have to do what you're required to do professionally.
"Would I like the old system, where you brought everybody to camp and then the best 53 guys make the team? Yes, but it's not in the cards and we wouldn't have won a World Championship with that system in free agency.
"You take the good with the bad."
Polian also said Thursday the Colts are unlikely to figure prominently in the early stages of free agency.
The Colts recently re-signed tight end Dallas Clark, guard Ryan Lilja and safety Bob Sanders to long-term contracts, moves Polian said represent the majority of the team's free-agent activity this off-season.
Of the four starters from last season whose contracts expired after last season, only offensive guard Jake Scott remains unsigned. Polian said during this past weekend's NFL Scouting Combine that although Scott would be welcome back to the Colts with "open arms," he said he expects Scott to test free agency.
Other Colts players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents include defensive end Josh Thomas, defensive tackle Dan Klecko, wide receiver Aaron Moorehead and linebacker Rocky Boiman. Restricted free agents include safety Matt Giordano, tight end Ben Utecht, tight end Bryan Fletcher, defensive end Darrell Reid and offensive guard Dylan Gandy.
"We won't be ignoring free agency," Polian said. "We'll see what interests us, but we're not going to be out-of-the-box, $80-million players right off the bat. Probably not ever with those kinds of dollars. We'll be keeping a weather eye on it, but it's principally draft preparation now."