Despite Marvin Harrison's Departure, Colts Keep Soaring
Condon said Harrison spends most of his time in Philadelphia and is involved in several businesses. He calls Harrison an "acute'' businessman.
"He is not any different with me than he is with the media or most people,'' Condon said. "He gets right to business. Pleasant and nice talks. But brief ones. Very brief.''
Harrison, whom the Colts released in the spring, has spent this NFL season recovering from knee injuries and dealing with legal issues regarding a Philadelphia shooting two springs ago.
Yet, the Colts are 12-0 without him.
They can set the NFL record for consecutive regular-season victories at 22 with a win over the Denver Broncos (8-4) on Sunday in Indianapolis.
It is a remarkable achievement that the Colts have soared without Harrison, a centerpiece of what helped identify them and made them formidable in the last decade. Most teams -- notably the New York Giants with the loss of receiver Plaxico Burress -- have struggled to maintain excellence when losing an offensive axiom.
Harrison was certainly that to the Colts.
He was selected to eight consecutive Pro Bowls from 1999-2006. Harrison is one of only four receivers in league history to earn more than 1,000 receptions (Jerry Rice, 1,549; Harrison, 1,102; Cris Carter, 1,101; and Tim Brown, 1,094). No quarterback-receiver combination has produced more receptions (965) or touchdown passes (114) than Peyton Manning-to-Marvin Harrison. In 2002, Harrison made a stunning NFL single-season-record 143 catches.
He featured a sixth gear that gained him separation at the end of routes. He could outreach and outmaneuver defenders. He adjusted to the ball in a blink. Precision routes -- the subtle movements of his feet, shoulders and head -- made defensive backs freeze. His hands were marvelous.
His quiet nature was astounding. His silence was as profound as his game.
So, when Harrison toiled with knee injuries during the 2007 season and played in only five Colts games, doubts rose about his future. When he had offseason knee surgery, returned for the 2008 season and did not produce a 100-yard receiving game (and only one multiple-touchdown game), those doubts increased. When, between the two seasons -- on April 29, 2008 -- a gun that he owned was involved in a shooting outside a nightclub he owned, the league was stunned.
"There is a legal side, he has counsel for that, the Philadelphia district attorney has decided not to press charges against him and he is dealing with a civil suit in that matter,'' Condon said.
Dungy explained: "Marvin told me soon after what happened. I knew Marvin was a very neighbor-oriented guy in his hometown city in a tough area. He was never going to run from the city. But I was quite shocked that he would be connected to anything to do with that.''
Super Bowl XX most valuable player Richard Dent added: "When I signed with the Colts from the Bears in 1996, Marvin was a rookie. I owned a clothing store and gave him his first custom suit. He was so quiet even then. He was the last person you would think would be involved in any way in any kind of shooting.''
An NFL general manager, who requested anonymity, said that because Harrison is 37, because of his knee problems, because of the shooting incident and because of the top-flight dollars and a top-flight team he seeks, it is little wonder that Harrison remains a free agent and out of football.
Polian said Harrison was as "single-minded'' when it came to football as is Manning.
"When he hurt the knee in 2007, it was the first extended injury he had,'' Polian said. "It was frustrating because we couldn't get a handle on what was going on with the injury. We find out there is a cyst there. But when he came back in 2008, the injury had robbed him of some flexibility. He was a mere mortal receiver in the NFL, not the guy who is one of the greatest players in league history.
"After the season, his age and ability were in question and we had cap issues. I was not going to ask him to take a pay cut. I said it might be the end. He said, 'I know.' He wanted a release and we granted it. But in his final time with us in 2008, he was able to put himself in second place all-time in NFL receptions. It was just a wonderful day. The fan response was phenomenal. And he was all smiles in the locker room and his smile lit up the room. I will always remember that.''
Dungy said that Harrison made as many spectacular catches in practices as he did in games. He said watching Harrison was like watching an artist work.
"He would come by my office occasionally and it was fast, quick, to the point,'' Dungy said. "Early in my time as Colts coach, I was in a team meeting and made a joke about how this opposing cornerback was looking for Marvin, and how he was going to shut him out of the game, and I challenged Marvin in a joking way. And Marvin waited a couple of days and came to my office. And he said: 'Coach, I don't joke about football. And I don't joke about my job.' That was it. I got it. It never happened again.
"I think Marvin will only play again if he gets the chance with a good quarterback and a winning team that fits him. People had high standards for him and he has them for himself.''
Condon said teams that have shown interest in Harrison are concerned about bringing him on board and taking away development time from their younger receivers. When asked if he thinks Harrison will play again, Condon answered: "I think that will be up to Marvin. I think in the right situation or opportunity, he might.''
"I don't think so,'' Dungy said. "We've probably seen the last of Marvin Harrison playing in this game.''
But we have not seen the last of Colts excellence.
Polian drafted depth at receiver in the last three years. He grabbed receivers Anthony Gonzalez in 2007, Pierre Garcon in 2008 and Austin Collie in this year's draft. Collie has 46 catches and five touchdowns this season, and Garcon 41 catches and four touchdowns. Gonzalez has battled a knee injury for most of the season, but Polian believes he will return soon.
Reggie Wayne -- who promised everyone before the season began that the Colts would have surprises develop at receiver -- has been brilliant with 82 catches and nine touchdowns. Tight end Dallas Clark ranks second on the team with 75 catches and 5 touchdowns.
Thus, rather than Harrison and Wayne as the Colts' dominant 1-2 punch, it has become Wayne and Clark.
"[Senior offensive coordinator] Tom Moore, Peyton [Manning], [assistant head coach/receivers coach] Clyde Christensen and [head coach] Jim Caldwell have all performed different tasks within the offense to tweak the system and allow us to still function without Marvin and with dynamic players in a new mode,'' Polian said. "We may not be as spectacular without Marvin, but we have adjusted. It's not something you can count on happening. But when you've got Peyton and the other guys involved, you know there is a chance. No matter if Marvin plays again, we want him back here when he does retire and we want him to retire as a Colt.''
Dungy called Harrison's time with the Colts, "the right system, the right time, the right quarterback and the perfect storm.''
You have to give it up to the Colts for the new perfect storm and ruckus they have created this season -- minus Harrison.