Harrison Returns Full Speed on First Day of 2008 Colts Training Camp
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – As of early Friday, many of his Colts teammates didn't know for sure the 2008 Training Camp status of Marvin Harrison.
Would the eight-time Pro Bowl selection be ready?
Would he practice? Would he be limited?
Around 8:30 a.m. Friday, on the first day of camp, cornerback Marlin Jackson had his answer, which was that Harrison – who missed 11 regular-season games last season – would indeed practice, and do so at full speed.
Jackson's reaction was similar to that of his teammates. He couldn't have been happier.
"A lot of us didn't even know he was going to be practicing," Jackson said Friday between a pair of first-day practices at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
"When I saw him out there warming up, I got really excited. Just to see Marvin Harrison, a Hall-of-Fame wide receiver – to see him out there after everything that happened last year with the injury . . .
"It was good to see him back out there."
Harrison worked with the first team throughout Friday morning's practice, catching several short passes from quarterback Jim Sorgi.
"Marvin did fine," Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said. "He did all of his work. He took his normal turns. We're going to see how it goes and how he progresses. For the first day, it was encouraging. It was good to see him out there really smiling and running easily."
Harrison, the Colts' first-round selection in the 1996 NFL Draft, made the Pro Bowl each season from 1999-2006, establishing himself as one of the most productive receivers in NFL history.
He had at least 1,000 yards receiving in each of those seasons, and in each season, he caught at least 10 touchdown passes. He and quarterback Peyton Manning have combined for more touchdowns, yards and receptions than any quarterback-receiver tandem in NFL history.
He set the NFL record for receptions in a season with 143 in 2002, and in 12 NFL seasons, he has caught 1,042 passes for 13,944 yards and 123 touchdowns.
His receptions total is fourth all-time in NFL history behind Jerry Rice (1,549), Cris Carter (1,011) and Tim Brown (1094) and he is one of just seven receivers in league history with 100 or more touchdowns.
But in the fourth game of last season, in the Colts' 38-20 victory over Denver in the RCA Dome, Harrison sustained a knee injury that hampered him the rest of the season.
He played in just one more regular-season game, then started the Colts' 28-24 playoff loss to the San Diego Chargers. He finished the season with a career-low 20 receptions for 247 yards and a touchdown, which made Friday's appearance more than a welcome one for his teammates.
"You see him out there running routes, catching balls – it gives you definitely a level of security when you know you've got somebody out there as good as Marv catching balls," Colts center Jeff Saturday said. "I was really glad to see he's back and he's healthy."
Colts two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Reggie Wayne, who has played across from Harrison the past seven seasons, said there was little unusual about Harrison Friday.
"It was another practice with Marv: 'What's up, Marv . . . What's up, Reg. Let's get it,''' Wayne said. "It was no different. He looks fine. He hasn't really practiced in the huddle for months, so he probably felt the same way I did – rusty. As the time comes, I'm sure he'll get back into the flow of things. Marv's an old vet. It shouldn't be too hard for him."
Harrison this season will turn 36, and although that's an age many receivers begin to decline, Dungy – like many of Harrison's teammates – said Harrison has shown no such signs.
"That's the hope, that you're dealing with a rare guy," Dungy said. "You saw it with Jerry Rice. You see it with very, very few people. Marvin shows every indication of being that way. When we looked at the tape from last year, in the first four games, there was nothing you could discern that was different from 2003 or 2005. If everything is right with him physically, we think we'll get the same type of production."
And as far as coaches and teammates saw it Friday, there was ever indication Harrison was fine physically.
"He looked like Marvin to me," Wayne said. "He still had the 88 jersey on. He still was the same quiet Marv. I saw the same thing you did. He looked fine. If you see Marv out there practicing, and you see him at the front of the line like he always is, you kind of have a feeling he's back to the old Marv."
Said Saturday, "He's ready to rock. You could tell he's excited. I think that kind of motivates Marv. People challenge him and talk about him. I think silently that motivates him a little bit and he's ready to go."
Dungy, too, said he noticed something in Harrison beyond the field on Friday that made him feel optimistic.
"I try to read his face," Dungy said. "When he's smiling and doesn't have that worried look, then I think things are pretty much normal. That's how it was today. He had done a lot of work one-on-one, but hadn't done a lot of teamwork. He got in there, made his cuts and he caught the ball.
"He just looks like he felt comfortable, so that was good to see."
And while Dungy said the team plans to watch Harrison to ensure he doesn't overwork during the early weeks of camp, he also said, "Marvin is a guy who kind of defies logic."
"I think he's going to be fine and ready to go," Dungy said. "We're going to try to have somewhat of a monitor on him, but we rely on him a lot to tell us how feels and what he can do. He'll probably end up doing more than most of us think."