Reggie Hayes, sports columnist for The News-Sentinel of Fort Wayne, Ind.,
gives his unique spin on The Indianapolis Colts.

Tuesday, February 6

Celebrating the championship

Since I was in flight from Miami yesterday, I didn't get to witness the Colts' Indy celebration first hand, but saw some of the highlights and heard from a number of people about it. Fortunately, Pete DiPrimio was there, capturing the moment for The News-Sentinel. Marvin Harrison (pictured) and his teammates basked in the love. This is a tremendous deal for Indianapolis, helping to validate the city as a real pro town.

It's going to be fascinating to see what happens with the Colts from here on out. Will they be a one-title wonder? Will they win another one next year or the year after? Winning that first championship changes everything. There will be some changes in personnel next season, that's inevitable. The offense, with the possible exception of Dominic Rhodes, should remain intact. Securing Dwight Freeney will be a priority. His sack numbers weren't as huge as he's had in the past, but his presence makes an impact regardless. Robert Mathis benefits immensely from Freeney on the other end. If the Colts don't reach an agreement with Freeney, the can keep him by making him a "franchise" player, where he'd remain in a one-year, $8 million-plus deal.

Peyton Manning ought to be freed from some pressure, but that won't slow him down. Tony Dungy hinted he'll be back next year, and that would be the best news the Colts could have to start the off season.

Monday, February 5

The Champion Colts

The Colts are Super Bowl champions. It's hard to say which players seemed the most excited. I'd put Dwight Freeney high on the list. Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark (photo by Chad Ryan) were pretty happy, too. Coach Tony Dungy couldn't seem to quit talking. He came to the interview room with his son, Eric. It was a touching scene, considering the rough year the Dungy family had last season.

Reporters in attendance seemed to expect a little more excitement in Peyton Manning's face for finally winning a Super Bowl. He was happy, but not jumping around like Steve Young or John Elway. Maybe that's because the game was sealed with about five or six minutes to go, so it lacked any final suspense. More likely, this game couldn't reach the emotional high of knocking off the Patriots in the AFC Championship game.

At any rate, Manning's performance should grow in stature as the days go by. It's very impressive what he was able to do in the pouring rain. Other than a couple of special teams botches -- the Hester return, obviously -- the Colts played a thoroughly strong game. They're the Champs. That'll take some time to sink in. I'm a journalist, not a fan, but seeing a great guy like Dungy win was fun to watch.

Sunday, February 4

Rain won't go away

Forget that post about the rain slowing down. It just drenched Billy Joel in his strong rendition of the National Anthem as kickoff nears. It's going to be a wet one. Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes better be ready to work.

And this stadium is definitely pro-Bears. I'd say it's 70-30 in favor of the Bears. But I could be wrong. It might be 68-32.

Rain ending as fans enter

I arrived at Dolphin Stadium about 3 p.m. today after a 90-minute bus ride over, and stadium workers were in the midst of using push lawnmower-style dryers on the field to combat the rain and drizzle that hit overnight. The rain has stopped for now, and fans have begun to enter the stadium.

The weather, a big topic down here, hasn't been nearly as beautiful as the last few days, but if rain doesn't start up again, it shouldn't be that much of a factor. I expect the Bears have every intention of running the ball extensively whether it's semi-sloppy or not. However, it wouldn't surprise me to see Rex Grossman go deep early just to keep the Colts honest. As for the Colts, they'll stick with their usual game plan. If we've learned anything this week, it's that coach Tony Dungy believes in sticking with his routine and his regular approach.

Saturday, February 3

Bears fans not hibernating at South Beach

I had the chance to stroll down to South Beach in the sun this afternoon with N-S photographer Chad Ryan. As his photos show in his Super Bowl blog, there are some sights you don't see every day in Fort Wayne. We made sure to attend the sporting event, Volleypalooza. I'm sure you've heard of it.

This is highly unscientific, but Bears fans seem to greatly outnumber Colts fans, judging from the jerseys around the beach. Maybe the Colts fans are at some other locales, however. I'm expecting the Super Bowl crowd to lean toward the Bears, but probably not to the degree that the Steelers fans swarmed Detroit last season. It was like a Pittsburgh home game that day.

The Colts were scheduled to move from their week-long hotel in Fort Lauderdale to an undisclosed location tonight, the better to focus in on the game. It's a tactic common to Super Bowl teams.

The hype here has been everything you would expect, and if I had an extra $2,000, I'd check out Jennifer Lopez's party tonight. It can still be wired to me if anyone's interested. I'm at the downtown Radisson. I'll check the front desk periodically, just in case.

By the way, I' m ready for kickoff already...

Friday, February 2

Castroneves to deliver pep talk

Colts coach Tony Dungy met with the media today for the last time prior to kickoff and says he plans to bring in a special guest speaker for the team today: Indy Car driver Helio Castroneves.
"Helio and I have gotten to become good friends," Dungy said. "He actually let me in his pit getting ready for the (Indy) 500. It's the same type of thing. That's the big stage, the Super Bowl of their sport. He' s won a couple of them, and I want him to address the team a little bit about what it means to win the biggest game in your sport. He's also a big Colts fan, so it'll be a win-win situation for us."
Dungy was also asked, in deference to his Christian faith, what his prayer will be on Super Bowl Sunday.
"My prayer on game day will really be that it remains a positive experience, that the country can see a great football game and that both sides play their best. As Lovie (Smith) says, (pray) that all the key players get to play and do their best. If we do that, it'll be a great game and a great day."

Thursday, February 1

Prince, Billy Joel and a bomb to Aaron Moorehead

If you've got NFL Network, you can catch Prince's Super Bowl news conference, where he declined to take questions but gave a three-song performance. The place was rocking. I saw several sportswriters slightly tapping their toes to the beat. That's wild, man.

I loved Billy Joel, too. He's singing the national anthem, and took several questions about it, including how difficult it is to sing.
"It’s not the greatest song ever written," Joel said. "What it represents is a terrific thing, but 'America the Beautiful' is actually a better song. It was written in the 19th century vernacular so nobody remembers the lyrics because they don't know what they mean. The melody's difficult, so they drop out on the high notes. It's kind of a slog, actually."
As for the Colts, everyone practiced today except Nick Harper, who's still holding out hope he'll be able to play on Sunday. Dan Marino watched practice. Peyton Manning ended practice with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Moorehead.

"This is about our 20th week of practice, and I think the defense stopped the offense once or twice all year," coach Tony Dungy said. "When they stop them, we give out game balls."

Dungy was being playful. The Colts are loose, and that should be a good sign.

Wednesday, January 31

James remains on Colts' minds

We've had three days of interviews with both teams and I doubt there's a question left unasked. But I will say when it comes to getting some love from reporters and former teammates, no one tops Edgerrin James.

James makes his home in Miami, and several Colts players have spent time with him over their few days here. I haven't had a chance to talk to James, but he's been quoted by other media outlets as saying he's still pulling for the Colts. His teammates definitely give that impression.
"I went out there and chilled with him a little bit," running back Dominic Rhodes said. "He's happy for us. He wants us to win the Super Bowl. He just wishes his team (the Arizona Cardinals) could have done a little better. That's the type of guy Edge is. He's been in the league long enough to know that it's not just about yourself, it's about the other guys around you. He's got a lot of love for us. He wants us to do well."

Said Reggie Wayne: "Personally, for me I feel that EJ helped pave the way. He helped spark the team when it was at its lowest point. I wish he could be here, but that's just not the nature of the game, the business of the game. ...He's excited, just happy for us and it's just Edge being Edge."

Tuesday, January 30

Reagor hopes to play again

Late Monday night, when I was leaving the Colts' hotel in Fort Lauderdale, I ran into Montae Reagor. He greeted me like a long lost friend. I returned the gesture. He's always been one of friendliest, most approachable players.

"Have you guys missed me?" he said. "We miss all your great quotes," I told him. "I know you did," he said, laughing. "I've been around. You just haven't seen me."
After chatting briefly, Reagor said he hoped to be able to talk soon about the automobile accident that ended his season. The time came today, when he appeared at Media Day at Dolphin Stadium.

While his left eye remains slightly swollen, Reagor (pictured with Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison) was in good spirits in sharing his story with a number of reporters. I'll have a full story in Wednesday's edition of the paper. Reagor said he hoped to be able to return to the NFL next season, but that's far from a done deal.

"As long as my health is there and my mind is right and my heart is in it, I'll be back."
I hope he makes it back. But one of the best parts of this trip to Miami so far was to see Montae in good spirits again.

Monday, January 29

Colts hit Miami, seek to avoid vice

The Colts finally arrived Monday night in Miami, more than 24 hours after the Chicago Bears. Simply a matter of preference. Coach Tony Dungy felt staying in Indianapolis an extra day allowed this to feel more like a regular-season week.

Of course, nothing feels like the regular season once you’re on the scene in Miami, with the overwhelming hype and beckoning nightlife. When I was leaving the Colts hotel in Fort Lauderdale earlier tonight after a half-hour interview session with Dungy and various players, the limos were lined up ready to take the players to South Beach, etc., for some fun.

They won’t have too long to party, however. The Colts are scheduled to talk with reporters from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday at Dolphin Stadium.
“This is a week that you’re not going to get to experience all the time,” Dungy said. “I pointed out to them on Monday that in the 41 years of this game, there’s six teams that haven’t been here yet and another eight teams that have been only once. So that’s almost half the league that been one time (or not at all) in 41 years. We can’t look at it as something that, hey, we’ll probably get to do it again next year or the year after.”
On the injury note, Dungy said quarterback Peyton Manning’s thumb should allow him to play, but cornerback Nick Harper remains questionable with an ankle injury.

Sunday, January 28

Miami welcomes Bears, waits for Colts

The real Super Bowl hype is underway. The Chicago Bears arrived in Miami today, about an hour before my flight came in. The Colts are due in tomorrow, after a final day of preparations in Indianapolis. The circus that is "Media Day" takes place on Tuesday at Dolphin Stadium.

The Bears were greeted by a contingent of photographers and television cameras when they arrived at the Miami airport.
"One more step, and they can't wait. They were rushing off that plane. They can't wait to go to practice tomorrow," Bears coach Lovie Smith said.
I'll be in Miami all week leading up the game, filing daily stories and columns, as well as as regular blog entries.

Thursday, January 25

Manning, Dungy both a little coy

The first day of media availability with the Colts on Wednesday didn't produce a whole lot of scoops. Peyton Manning declined to give a report on his injured right thumb, saying he was from the Bill Belichick school of injury reports. In other words, he's not saying a word. However, he planned to practice as usual and coach Tony Dungy said he expected Manning to play. As I've said before, I can't imagine a scenario where a sore thumb would be enough to put Jim Sorgi in the limelight.

Dungy was asked whether this might be his last game as coach, given that he has hinted in the past that he doesn't plan to coach forever.

"That's something I haven't thought a whole lot about. I'll sit down with Jim (Irsay) and my wife and do what we do at the end of every year. The first thing is to find out if they want you back."
Dungy said a couple weeks ago, when his name was floated in connection with other jobs, that the Colts would be his last coaching position. It seems as if he has enjoyed this season, for the most part. He certainly enjoyed the AFC title win. But if the Colts beat the Bears, the temptation to go out on a high note might be there. Right now, I'd still expect Dungy to be back as coach next season. It'll be an interesting situation after the Super Bowl.