What I’ve Learned So Far in St. Louis by kentsterling

by Kent Sterling

For seven weeks, I’ve been a St. Louisan as the program director of 101 ESPN – one of the best sportstalk radio stations in America.  This is the first move my family has made in 18 years, and the first time as bona fide adults.  There is a lot to know, and I’m picking up as much as I can as quickly as I can, and it’s a challenge.

Here is a list – a bit of a primer – of the lessons for those considering a similar change in course:

Selling a house is not cheap, and it’s not easy – All those accommodations home owners make to the age of their home are exposed and corrections must be made.  We replaced or updated a long list of items that had been petty annoyances for years.  There is a feeling for us that we want those who trust us enough to buy our home to be very happy with their choice.  We owe it to the buyer to make sure everything is right, so we replaced faucets, carpeting, and shower doors.  Julie and Ryan worked their asses off to make the backyard the wonderful getaway that we always wanted it to be.  I wish we had done it years ago, so we could have enjoyed it more.

The best part of the house not selling in the first two weeks it has been listed is that we have absolutely no idea where we want to live in St. Louis.  City?  Country?  Near work?  Near golf?  In the woods?  In a town?  Julie, Ryan, and I have no idea where to land.

Driving 280 miles each way every weekend isn’t that tough – The drive between Indianapolis and St. Louis isn’t a bother at all.  I enjoy a little solitude now and then, and the almost four-hour drive is a simple and mindless jaunt without a metropolitan area in between.  101 ESPN has a huge signal – I can hear it almost all the way to Terre Haute – so listening uninterrupted is easy and because the product is high quality, very enjoyable.

With family in Indy, working is all there is to do in St. Louis – People always say that there is no such thing as work if you love what you do, and that’s true.  Maybe that’s why I don’t mind being in the office from before eight to after seven most days.  It also helps that my option is another night alone in my hotel room at the Doubletree.  Nothing against the Doubletree, but all things being equal, I’d rather be in the office.  When Julie and/or Ryan move out here, that will change a little bit as the discipline to devote time for family is every bit as important as the discipline of working hard.  I learned that while working in Indianapolis – accepting more and more responsibility as a manager’s faith.

Meeting new people can be joyful – I’ve never been a gregarious guy with new people.  It has always taken me a significant period of time to feel comfortable with strangers, but that seemed more a choice than a psychological disorder, so I told myself to ignore the impulse to dip my toe in the water before easing into the social pool.  I jumped in, and continue to get lunch with people as though they will be future friends rather than longtime strangers.  Let’s face it, I’m not George Clooney or Sam Bradford, so people aren’t going to tolerate my social reticence because in the end it will be worth it.  Fortunately, St. Louisans are a welcoming bunch, so I’m having a great time introducing myself to people I haven’t met.

St. Louis is a cool city (not in climate) – The people in St. Louis tend to stay in St. Louis, so there aren’t a huge number of ambassadors running around the midwest extolling the many virtues of the ‘Gateway to the West’.  That might be how St. Louisans like it.  The city is like some secret along the Mississippi that some very lucky outsiders occasionally wander into.  Getting around town is a challenge, but well worth it.  It ever a midwestern city was built for GPS, it’s St. Louis, but the rewards of a meal on ‘The Hill’, a trip to Rams Park for practice, or a game at Busch Stadium has all been more than worth it.  There are an endless series of suburban towns – some of which are forest filled and rural, while others are very typical.  The people, as I mentioned earlier, are very friendly.  People told me when we decided to move to St. Louis that its people are “very provincial”.  If they meant people are proud of their hometown, they were right.  But I got the impression that they meant the people were cold to outsiders.  I have found that purely false.

In a related thought, heat is relative.  It’s been really hot and humid since I got to St. Louis, but it no longer bothers me at all.  It’s not a dry heat, but it’s a heat that is easy to ignore.

St. Louis is a great golf town – I like golf.  Rather than a good walk spoiled, I see golf as a great hike enhanced.  St. Louis has beautiful and affordable courses.  The grasses are very hearty, so the divots are small.  My shoulders and elbows throb a bit after a round in Indy.  The turf is so loose that I can get a little deep with divots, and the shock of the impact causes some aches and pains.  In St. Louis, no such worries.

Baseball is good for sportstalk – During summers in Indianapolis, the only major league – and I realize I’m stretching the definition of the term ‘major league’ – is the WNBA.  That’s right, from the end of the Pacers season through the opening of Colts camp, the Indiana Fever are the only game in town.  St. Louis, with the Cardinals, Rams, and Blues, is a 365 day sports town.  People love all three teams, and all are committed to bringing in high character guys.  I love it.

The Cards are great – I know that as a lifelong Cubs fan, I’m supposed to somehow hate the Cardinals, but they play the game the right way.  Despite the Cubs current run of seven straight wins, they continue to run the bases like tools, miss cutoff men, and swing at pitches outside the strike zone.  Rooting for the Cubs, where no culture of winning exists, is a brutal exercise in futility.  The only culture is of unearned exorbitance.  The Cards are completely unlike the Cubs.  They play baseball the right way.  I have long thought that Albert Pujols is the best hitter I have ever seen, but watching him night after night it’s clear that his excellence extends beyond what he does with the bat.  While not fast, he might be the smartest baserunner I’ve seen since Roberto Clemente.  He wins games by taking the extra base, and that surprised me.  Maybe he is just on a great run of luck not getting thrown out, but over the last seven weeks, I’ve been stunned by his smart aggression.

All NFL teams are not run like the Colts – There is no denying the consistent excellence of the Colts over the last decade, but there is also no denying that their treatment of the media is more than a little off-putting and unnecessarily paranoid.  The Rams are the opposite.  I stood next to Rams GM Kevin Demoff for a half-hour the other night talking about all kinds of things, and it struck me more than once that doing the same with a member of the Colts front office would be almost unthinkable.  At one point with Kevin, I excused myself because practice was ongoing.  He said, “No, no, stick around.”  I have great respect for Bill and Chris Polian (and like both), but it’s nice to know there is more than one way to skin a cat when it comes to dealing with the media.

It’s hard to argue with the success the Colts have achieved, but I believe the same results (or better) might be gained by relaxing a little bit and enjoying the company of people who want nothing more than to help build the popularity of the franchise.

Working and writing are not compatible – I would love to write more often, but it’s impossible.  To those of you who enjoy this website, I apologize for not being more active here, but as I get more and more settled, hopefully I can find the time and energy to write things worth reading.



Colts Try to Avoid First 0-2 Start Since ’98 by kentsterling

by Kent Sterling

The Indianapolis Colts have suffered slings and arrows of the media all week after looking terrible in losing to the Houston Texans in the openers last Sunday.  ESPN’s Mark Schlereth was the most egregious in his assessment of the Colts, saying the their slow start is in part due to the way the team approaches the preseason, as though this preseason was any different from the last decade when the Colts compiled the best September record in the NFL.

If the Colts have truly seen the beginning of the inevitable slide back to mediocrity, the reason is personnel not the methodology of preparation in Anderson.  Whether Jim Caldwell rode the Dungy wave last year and now that the team is truly his there is a slide also bears discussion if the Colts can’t right the ship tonight.

As the Colts built the team that won Super Bowl 41, they enjoyed some very successful drafts.  During the last four drafts, that luck turned south.  Take a look at the first and second round picks from 1996-2005 (overall draft position in parentheses):

1996 – Marvin Harrison (19), Dedric Mathis (51)

1997 – Tarik Glenn (19 ), Adam Meadows (48)

1998 – Peyton Manning (1), Jerome Pathon (32)

1999 – Edgerrin James (4), Mike Peterson (36)

2000 – Rob Morris (28), Marcus Washington (59)

2001 – Reggie Wayne (30), Idrees Bashir (37)

2002 – Dwight Freeney (11), Larry Tripplett (42)

2003 – Dallas Clark (24), Mike Doss (58)

2004 – Bob Sanders (44)

2005 – Marlin Jackson 29), Kelvin Hayden (60)

There were a few second round misses, but that’s life in the NFL.  When giant men collide at high speeds, tendons, muscles, and bones are in jeopardy.  The only first round whiff was Rob Morris, and he wasn’t a bad player for the Colts.  The rest were very productive, and four might wind up in Canton.

It’s easy to look at those drafts and see how they put together seven straight 12+ win seasons.  The sheer tonnage of talent aggregated there is stupefying.

Now let’s peek at the drafts from 2006-2010:

2006 – Joseph Addai (30), Tim Jennings (62)

2007 – Anthony Gonzalez (32), Tony Ugoh (42)

2008 – Mike Pollak (59)

2009 – Donld Brown (27), Fili Moala (56)

2010 – Jerry Hughes (31), Pat Angerer (63)

The good news is that all those players, minus Jennings, are still on the roster so the real value of those picks can still move upward.  Most have failed to move the Colts needle forward at all.  Jennings was a total bust as a corner.  He was an open-up corner (the absolute opposite of a shut-down corner).  Teams picked on him wherever he was on the field.

The Tony Ugoh pick was expensive, as he not only represents a wasted second rounder, but also a spent first-rounder (29) Bill Polian traded to move up from 63 to 42 so they could grab him.  The 49ers drafted a fellow named Kentwan Balmer, who was traded this past offseason to the Seahawks for a future sixth round pick.  That pick was a bust, but 11 picks later the New Orleans Saints took Tracy Porter, who would have looked a hell of a lot better in a Colts jersey during last year’s Super Bowl than he did in a Saints jersey.

It’s too early in the careers of Brown, Moala, Hughes and Angerer to tell whether they are going to be legit contributors to a great team in the future, but to this point the past five drafts have not measured up to the standards Polian set during his wildly productive 1998-2005 era.

Here’s an incontrovertible rule of sports – good players win, and great players win a lot.  Bad players lose, and terrible players lose a lot.  The Colts should still win more than they lose, but the run of 12+ win seasons will end.  That will happen not because of Jim Caldwell, the way they prepared for the season, or because of some cockamamie curse.  The Colts will finish 10-6 because the talent is good enough to win 12 games.



Never Time to Panic for Colts, But Good Time for Concern by kentsterling

by Kent Sterling

The Indianapolis Colts never panic.  They never overreact.  As other teams have lost their way when faced with adversity, the Colts have continued to march blithely and confidently into their future.

That future has included seven straight seasons of 12+ wins, and their biggest pain in the ass has been answering questions about the potential for an undefeated season.  That task was emphatically erased from their to-do list as some second year free agent named Foster gashed the Colts for the second greatest opener by a running back in NFL history.

It wasn’t pretty or even competitive, and a day later (don’t you love DVR after a loss) it’s still hard to watch the Texans defensive line slide the Colts around the field like chess pieces.

The problem isn’t speed, size, or scheme.  It’s desire.  After seven years of playing like every game mattered more than the one that came before, the Colts played like football just wasn’t that important.  To say there was no urgency is like saying the Indianapolis Police Department has had a bad month.  You think?

The need to win has never been in short supply for the Colts.  They have consistently drafted to and reinforced a culture that valued winning above all else.  More physically gifted players were drafted by other teams.  The Colts filled their roster with diligence and driven men who wanted it more than the other guy – his number of 225 lbs. bench press reps and vertical leap stats be damned.

That it has worked for almost the entire run of Bill Polian’s 12+ years in Indianapolis is one of the few pieces of truth that fans can cling to as they wait for game two.

Bob Sanders and Anthony Gonzalez were injured, and while that’s never good, both helped the Colts get to the Super Bowl last year in the same measure as Norm Bulaich and the mayor of Beech Grove.  How long they’ll be out is anyone’s guess, and until we see them in cleats and pads, there is no point speculating.

Watching the replay confirms what I thought watching the game yesterday.  Did Jim Caldwell and the Colts not think Texans’ defensive end Mario Williams was a threat, or that the life of Peyton Manning simply wasn’t worth protecting.  Several times, he was allowed to get pressure without anyone committed to blocking him, and other times Dallas Clark was isolated on him.  I’m never going to be confused with Vince Lombardi or even Ernie Lombardi, but Williams is a bad man with evil intent who would love nothing more than to hit Manning hard enough to send vertebrae exploding from Manning’s spine like skeet.  I would get a body bigger than Clark (although Clark was quite game) on him and bring some help.

The Colts aren’t in trouble yet, but the home opener – the Manning Bowl II – has some increased significance for a team that hasn’t started 0-2 since Manning’s rookie season – how is that possible?

They need to find a running game right now, and that defense has to find some fight.  The Giants, 31-18 winners against Carolina, didn’t run the ball that effectively, only amassing 118 yards on 36 carries, but if the Colts allow holes to be created like yesterday, fatigue will stop Ahmad Bradshaw before the Colts.



Indianapolis Colts Botching Management of Anthony Gonzalez? by kentsterling
September 7, 2010, 9:09 am
Filed under: Indianapolis Colts, Kent Sterling | Tags: ,

by Kent Sterling

Colts wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez spent all but the first quarter of last season rehabbing his injured knee, and what he wanted and expected was a chance to earn his job back at the starting outside receiver opposite Reggie Wayne.

He’s not sure that he got it.

If he didn’t get that chance, okay.  If he did, that’s great.  What is troubling is that Gonzalez is not sure, “I don’t know.   All I wanted was what was promised to me. I’m not sure either way that it did.  I’m probably not the person to ask, really. Whether a job is open or competition takes place, is something that is determined by coaches, not players.”

Managers and leaders can get away with incompetence, stupidity, ignorance, and all manner of mistakes that result from being dolts, but what they cannot survive is silence.  Communication is owed to staff.

Clearly, the normally quiet and compliant Gonzalez hasn’t been told anything about where or how often he can expect to play, or even whether he has been given an opportunity to earn his spot back.

Honestly communicating expectations is a sign of respect, and while sitting everyone down individually would be nearly impossible for a head coach, it should be done without prompting by the coordinator or position coach.  That Gonzalez felt the need by spill his frustration to the media is not a good sign for the Colts.

Nothing can damage the spirit of a staff like the unknown.  Without a clear explanation of where the team or company is headed, and what their contribution is, employees lose focus and collectively begin to doubt the leadership.

Some leaders are much more concerned with earning the trust of their managers than their staff.  These managers are always ineffective, and only achieve positive results under strange and serendipitous circumstances.

When a team like the Colts wins 12+ games for seven consecutive seasons, people look for a reason to doubt – a chink in the armor that shows a decline is imminent.  Gonzalez venting to the media is a real signal that all is not rosy on West 56th Street.

If Gonzalez implication that new offensive coordinator Clyde Christiansen – Gonzalez’ former position coach – has left him twisting in the wind is valid, that does not speak well of his abilities to lead this group.  With a veteran staff, there is a tendency to undercommunicate because their tenure is mistaken for maturity, but even mature and confident members of a staff require open and honest feedback.

If Gonzalez wanted communication, this gambit should lead to some, but not the kind he hoped for.  I would expect that he’ll be summoned into either head coach Jim Caldwell or president Bill Polian’s office this morning for a quick and pointed dose of communication that will articulate the Colts attitude on players venting to the media.



Colts Fans – Enjoy the Meaningless Preseason Games by kentsterling

by Kent Sterling

The only NFL teams playing meaningless games are those whose status as contenders for a Super Bowl berth is secure.  That Peyton Manning hasn’t played in the preseason finale since 2004 tells you something about the consistent excellence the Colts have enjoyed since then.

Fans each preseason get worked into a bit of a lather over the Colts looking lost during the preseason, although the number of hysterics is cut each year as the Colts continue winning 12+ regular season games like it’s their birthright.

As Manning gets older though, and is joined as a soon to be AARP member by Dwight Freeney, Jeff Saturday, and Reggie Wayne, the clock on the Colts run of superb seasons begins ticking with increasing volume.  Add the Super Bowl loss, which has been a fairly good harbinger of doom for the following season, and fans are approaching the 2010 season with a little bit of trepidation.

Whether that unease is valid or not is anybody’s guess at this point.  Two years ago, the run seemed to be at an end when the Colts started 3-4 after Manning recovered while playing from some sort of knee infection.  Once Manning was back, the Colts reeled off the final nine games to extend their unequaled streak of 12-win seasons.

Last year, the number of improbable comebacks was a little alarming, and then the abandoned perfect season seemed be a bitter pill to swallow.  A chance at history comes along very seldom for athletes, and to have that willfully stripped from them left a bitter locker room in its wake.  Hindsight is 20/20, and the hangover didn’t seem to irritate the team as they moved through the AFC playoffs to the Super Bowl.

This year starts anew, but does it really.  With Bob Sanders return to the defensive backfield, the Colts are likely the only team in the NFL returning 12 defensive starters.  The offense brings back virtually everyone, although Charlie Johnson’s injury is an issue.  If the Colts are forced to open the regular season with Tony “the Twitch” Ugoh protecting Manning’s backside, it will be time for fans of the Catholic faith to say a Novena prior to each contest – a difficult task as a Novena takes nine consecutive days of prayer.  Maybe we can start the next Novena for Week Two on the Friday prior to the opener?

The Colts need to protect #18 like players of Stratego guard the Marshal.  Manning goes down, the whole damn thing goes in the crapper.  The Colts don’t have Earl Morrall, Don Strock, Joe Gilliam, or Steve Fuller.  Manning rolls an ankle wrong, and fans will be forced to rally around Curtis Painter.  Painter looked alternately awful and serviceable this preseason, but no one in their right mind would be confidant walking into battle against the New England Patriots with old number seven being center.

Maybe my assumption that a Manning injury would lead to doom, pain, and unbearable suffering is apocryphal.  Maybe my trust for Polian should be a little bit more complete, but is anybody really that smart?

If there was ever a season to relax and say, “Well, the Colts are in great shape.  They’ll win their 12 or more, and then take their chances in the playoffs,” this is it.  That is precisely what makes me very nervous.  As a Cubs fan, my skill at looking for reasons to doubt is without parallel.  Each and every year, the Colts make me consider developing a more optimistic outlook.

One of these years, the cynic in me will be justified, but for now it just seems more prudent to believe that Colts president Bill Polian is the smartest executive in sports and has assembled yet another group that will find ways to win and thrive.

So have a good time tomorrow night watching the bottom 30 kids on the roster fight for a spot on the final 53-man unit.  The competition is so sparse right now for position that the most contentious battle is for return man.  Can Brandon James (left) hold off Ray Fisher and Devin Moore for the privilege of CATCHING and running with balls that have been kicked?  That’s the only task at hand now, and that puts the Colts in a very unique position in an NFL built for 32-teams to go 8-8.



Colts Preseason Week #2 Gems and Goats by wesreynolds

by Wes Reynolds

The Colts came out tonight and did what they usually do, which is lose another preseason game. The Buffalo Bills, in their home away from home north of the border in Toronto, defeated the Colts 34-21. While having a poor 4-20 preseason record in their last twenty-four outings, the Colts did seem to play more inspired and had a great deal of energy unlike last Sunday. While watching HBO’s Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the New York Jets last night, Jets head coach Rex Ryan scolded his second unit for not playing with intensity after their first preseason game. “The 2’s (second unit) have got to be better, especially on defense”. The Colts second unit on both sides of the ball played hard and some of the guys were really fighting hard for jobs, which is the main thing you are looking for during the preseason.

While watching the game, it was fairly easy to ascertain which players were the “Gems” and which ones were the “Goats”.

GEMS:

Devin Moore

A star is born? Maybe that’s overstating it, but Moore was definitely the Victor Cruz of this game for the Colts.

Again, I’m guilty of overstating it, in light of Cruz catching three TD’s just three days ago on Monday Night Football. However, Moore is also an undrafted free agent looking to make his hometown team just like Cruz (Paterson, NJ native) is with the Giants.  Moore is a hometown kid who led Cardinal Ritter to a Class A title in 2003. At only 165 pounds coming out of high school, Moore had zero major Division I offers with the exception of Wyoming. He left Laramie after the 2008 season as the Cowboys’ career rushing leader with 2,963 yards. Moore caught on last year with both the Seattle and Carolina practice squads, but is looking to break through the glass ceiling right in his own backyard.

Tonight, Moore had two big returns including a 38-yarder and 35-yarder in the first quarter. Moore’s big play was a 49-yard punt return late in the opening stanza that led to a short drive of four plays for 17 yards resulting in a Manning to Jacob Tamme touchdown connection. Moore also broke off a 22-yard run late in the third quarter.

The Colts will keep no more than four RB’s, and most likely only three, so Moore will have to make the club on special teams. He went a long way in doing just that tonight.  However, it is important not to forget that another local star, Courtney Roby (North Central HS; Indiana University), tried to make the team as a kick returner as well. He returned a kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown in the Colts’ 2008 preseason finale against Cincinnati and had five returns for 101 yards in the regular-season opener.

The Colts cut him that week.

Curtis Painter

Stop the presses! The backup QB actually looked like he somewhat belongs on an NFL roster. Last week against the 49ers was about as bad as it could get for him. 4 turnovers (3 INT and 1 Fumble) in the 2nd quarter alone. He looked scared s—less last week, but tonight he actually had some confidence and was relaxed out on the field. Painter played only three series, but went 5-for-6 and passed for 97 yards including a TD to Taj Smith and most importantly ZERO turnovers. The plan was likely to play Painter more, but Peyton Manning ended up playing five series in the first quarter because the Bills kept scoring on the Colts defense.

Taj Smith

Speaking of the second-year wideout from Syracuse, he redeemed himself with two nice catches on two successive plays (38 and 43 yards for a TD respectively). Dropped passes plagued Smith last week against the 49ers, including a sure touchdown, and Smith has always been plagued with a case of the drops. Smith was on the practice squad last year and faces an uphill battle to make the squad even with a solid performance tonight. He is the #6 receiver on the depth chart and last year the Colts only kept five. Smith’s problem is that he looks good in shorts during a workout, but comes up short when the bright lights are on all too often.

Terrail Lambert

Lambert was an undrafted free agent last year from Notre Dame who caught on with the Colts practice squad last October. Currently listed as third-string on the depth chart at CB, Lambert showed good instincts on run support and broke up two passes. He also led the club with eight tackles and is pushing 13-year vet DeShea Townsend for the backup right corner slot behind Jerraud Powers.

Pat Angerer

Another solid game for the 2010 2nd Round draft pick. He tallied 4.5 tackles and never took a play off and chased after every ball carrier no matter where he was on the field.

Offensive Line

The patchwork lineup with only one regular starter (RT Ryan Diem) starting tonight, did not allow a single sack and was able to do a serviceable job in run blocking.

GOATS:

Tony Ugoh

Colts President Bill Polian is one of the best talent evaluators in the NFL. When in doubt, Polian has earned the right to be trusted on pretty much every single personnel decision, whether it’s a draft pick or free agent signing. However, it may be fair to say that he completely missed on this guy. Keep in mind that the Colts traded a 2007 4th rounder and a 2008 1st rounder to move up into the second round and draft Ugoh. Ugoh has never panned out. He was brought in to be Tarik Glenn’s successor. He eventually lost his job to 2006 6th rounder Charlie Johnson.

Even last summer, Ugoh has been under the microscope. In an August 2009 article written by Mike Chappell of The Indianapolis Star, Colts owner Jim Irsay is quoted as saying the following:

During the summer, owner Jim Irsay basically put [Ugoh] on alert. “Tony Ugoh has to be more consistent,” he said. “We gave up a lot for him to play left tackle. He’s got to be more focused. He’s got to be ready to go.”

Did Ugoh look ready to go with three false start penalties tonight? Ugoh has been given every chance to succeed. Player personnel directors in the NFL will stick with higher draft picks in order to validate the transactions they have made and Polian has done that with Ugoh, but it might be time to know when to fold here.

Secondary Tackling

I stopped counting all the missed tackles by the secondary (especially the first unit!). The Colts defense gave up way too many big plays to a Buffalo offense that doesn’t exactly strike fear in the hearts of their opponents.

Ray Fisher

The former IU two-way player was drafted in the 7th round this past April, so his best shot to make the roster is on special teams. Fisher fumbled a punt return in the fourth quarter which was converted into three points by the Bills. He was outshined by both Devin Moore and Brandon James.

Gijon Robinson

Robinson has twenty-eight catches for 228 yards in the last two seasons. He is primarily used as an H-Back and blocking TE. He is listed as the #2 TE on the depth chart, but didn’t see action until late in the game. That has to tell us that 2010 5th-rounder Brody Eldridge has passed him on the depth chart.

Practice is very important to the guys that are fighting for jobs, but how you play when the lights are on is what really matters.  Next Thursday on the not-so-frozen tundra of Lambeau Field, will give us more of an idea about which Colts are going to win and lose jobs on the roster. The first cut is on Tuesday, August 31 down to 75 and then the final cut comes on Saturday, September 4.



With 12 Days Until Camp Opens, Indianapolis Colts Drama in High Gear by kentsterling

by Kent Sterling

For a guy who hates drama, Colts President Bill Polian sure is in the middle of a bunch of it.

NFL.com reported yesterday that Bob Sanders may never play football again.  Sanders’ agent refuted that report shortly after it was released.

Peyton Manning is entering the option year of his contract.  Owner Jim Irsay has promised to get Manning a deal that will keep him in blue and white for the rest of his career before the season starts.

Reggie Wayne wants a new deal.  At 31, and with two years remaining on his current deal, Wayne knows the clock on his career is ticking loudly.  If he waits until he’s 33, his chances of getting another long-term deal diminish.  Wayne says he’ll play this year regardless, but hasn’t ruled out holding out of camp to motivate management toward re-opening negotiations.

All-Pro DE Robert Mathis…ditto the basic issues of the Reggie Wayne deal, except that the Colts drafted a DEwith the same skill set as Mathis in the first round.  I’m sure the sure would prefer to rotate three speed rushers, but Mathis’ timing could have been better.  Hopefully, that pick, Jerry Hughes, and his agent don’t see the potential hold-out as collateral in the negotiation with Polian, who doesn’t play games with rookies.

Many of the Colts draftees are still unsigned, although that’s not unusual or dramatic.  The Colts almost always get deals done before the opening of camp.  The 31st pick in the draft doesn’t play hardball too often as the draftees slot into contract terms.

Given the level of unrest in the negotiations between ownership and the NFL Players Associations, it’s hard for Polian and Irsay to address the desires or Mathis and Wayne until the Manning deal is done.  For 2010 there is no cap at the high-end and no limit on the bottom end.  NFL teams in the past have been required to spend a minimum of 85% of the salary cap on players.  Without a cap, setting a limit is impossible.

No one knows what the new deal will hold, so players like Mathis and Wayne with a sufficient amount of leverage are trying to get a new deal that will survive whatever is in the agreement.  Unlike the potential strife in the NBA as their collective bargaining agreement expires, NFL owners are making a lot of money.  So are they players.  Will either side be stupid enough to forfeit wealth to get a bigger slice of the pie is the question that will drive the conversation next offseason as a strike/lock-out will be debated as tactics.

There has been such quiet at the 56th Street Colts Complex over the years with so few hold-outs that this is kind of fun for Colts fans, but no one should expect it to last too long.  If history is any guide, Manning will have his deal, and the draftees will all be in Anderson within a day of camp opening.

Al Harris (above). Todd Bell (right)

Holdouts are not rewarded very often by Polian, and this situation recalls the Bear’s of 1985.  Headed toward camp, Mike Singletary, Todd Bell, and Al Harris threatened to sit.  Singletary reported and the other two sat out the 1985 season.  Dave Duerson replaced Bell as Gary Fencik’s mate in the defensive backfield, and William Perry slid into the starting DT spot which allowed Dan Hampton to replace Harris at DE.

Bell and Harris have missed out on millions in endorsement money and a Super Bowl ring for their hubris.  Karma can be a bitch for those who turn their backs on the pieces of paper they sign.