The way things are going with so many former Indianapolis Colts landing in Tennessee, it makes you wonder if perhaps Peyton Manning is destined to wear Titans colors one day in the future.
The Colts certainly aren’t about to shed their franchise quarterback anytime soon, but as the Tennessee Titans have sifted through Indy’s discards in their rebuilding process, they have found more than a few keepers in their division rival’s recycle bin.
The influx of ex-Colts began last year when linebacker David Thornton signed as a free agent and continued in-season when tight end Ben Hartsock was nabbed from the waiver wire.
The Titans continued to latch on to former Colts this offseason, signing free agent cornerback Nick Harper, then adding linebacker Gilbert Gardner off waivers for depth and most recently signing defensive tackle Corey Simon, who fell out of favor last year in Indy, at the end of preseason.
“I think it’s a compliment to their personnel group and to what they have done,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said of his team’s hording of Colts castoffs. “They have brought good players in, and they can’t keep them all. We’ve just been in the right place at the right time to be able to acquire them.”
So is there a method to the Titans’ madness of acquiring so many former Colts to feed information regarding their rivals’ tendencies? After all, some Titans thought the same thing when they released cornerback Mike Echols only to have him surface on Indy’s practice squad soon thereafter.
The former Colts say it is just an odd coincidence of the collection of players who have made the trek down I-65 to Nashville from Indianapolis.
“We’ve wondered the same things,” Hartsock said when asked why so many ex-Colts are here. “I think it’s just been ironic. In my instance, I guess I just wasn’t a good fit for their scheme. I didn’t work well for what they were trying to do on offense. I happen to fit better here, and it happened to work out.
“I think each guy is individual. Nick Harper was a great player in Indianapolis, and he continues to be a great player here. Each guy has his own individual circumstances.”
None of the ex-Colts left Indy under more bizarre circumstances than Simon, the defensive tackle who missed all of 2006 with an injury/illness that was never disclosed. He was then a cap casualty when he reported to training camp and surfaced with the Titans weeks later. Surely, he has relished the chance to avenge the team that pulled the plug on his ’06 season just four games in.
“None whatsoever,” Simon professed regarding added incentive. “This is just another opportunity to get back out there on the field. We’re 1-0 and looking for 2-0.”
The former Colts still exude much of the low-key humility that Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy displays, even though they are no longer there.
“We change teams; that’s part of the business,” Harper said. “It doesn’t matter who we face. I’m going to go out and do my job. They happen to be the team that’s up. So that’s who we’re going to go out and face.
“We won a lot of games when we were up there, and teams want to be associated with winners, and we’re a bunch of classy guys. You want to be associated with good guys and winners.”
Harper and Thornton both said they have spoken to former teammates this week, and Harper said he would pay some of them a visit on Saturday evening. To a man, the ex-Colts say it is a big game facing their former team, but not a big deal.
“It makes for an interesting story for you all. Other than that, that’s about it,” Thornton said. “I know the guys that are here that used to be a part of that organization have a great deal of respect for coach Dungy and those players.”
The talking, at least in Thornton’s case, is done on the stat sheet, as the linebacker had 29 tackles in two games against the Colts last season.
But on the record at least, the former Colts are simply filing this week’s preparation for their former team under the “Nothing to see here” heading.
Or as Gardner said of the business of the NFL, “One week you’re going against a guy, and the next week you can be playing on his team. So you never know.”
Simon preferred to put the focus on now, not the past.
“Is there a lot of Colts here?” Simon said. “I thought everybody here was Titans. There’s no question the Colts got to the top of their game by bringing in great players. Guys’ times were up and they decided to come here. So now we’re all here, and we’re all Titans.”