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Jeff Saturday retires

jeff saturdayLongtime center Jeff Saturday signed a one-day contract so he could retire with the Indianapolis Colts. On Thursday, March 7, owner Jim Irsay introduced Saturday, who announced his retirement from the NFL and reflected on his 14-year career. Saturday spent 13 seasons with the Colts.

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INDIANAPOLIS – The last time Jim Irsay picked up a pen to sign a paper with Jeff Saturday’s name on it, the price was a little more expensive.

That was in 2009 when the center signed a three-year, 13 million dollar contract with the Colts that included a 7.45 million dollar signing bonus. It wasn’t far from his mind as he once again grabbed a pen to ink another deal with the player who was literally the centerpiece of his offense for 13 years.

But this time, of course, the deal lasted just 24 hours.

“This is not costing me anything,” joked Irsay as he began to but his name on the document. “And that’s rare but Jeff did ask for a new pickup truck so I told him I would consider that.”

Saturday might not hold him to that considering that Saturday’s terms were only for ceremony as the center called it a career after 14 seasons. All but one of those came as a member of the Colts (2012 he was with the Packers) and included six Pro Bowls along with two Associated Press All-Pro first team selections.

His wife Karen and three children joined him for the 15 minute speech in which he thanked everyone in the organization from the equipment managers to the trainers.

“This does not happen for many players, especially many offensive linemen,” said Saturday of the retirement ceremony and his chance to sign a one-day contract with the club. “I’m truly grateful and humbled for this opportunity.”

Yet Saturday can say that in both the past and present tense. His playing career has come to an end but not the one with the Colts, where he will continue on with the club working with community activities.

“An ambassador for the franchise,” said Irsay of Saturday’s title with the club. “We’ll see where it goes from there. He may have an interest eventually in coaching, may have an interest in even becoming a general manager.”

Such an opportunity is one that Saturday could have had a year ago when he was mulling retirement or free agency. According to the center, it was actually the owner who delayed a position like this for another year as he encouraged Saturday to play even if it meant leaving Indianapolis.

“I’ll be very frank, Mr. Irsay even last year when I was debating to keep playing or go on he said, ‘Listen, if it’s still in your heart, you should go somewhere where you feel like you have the best chance.’,” said Saturday. “That’s the kind of owner he is. He was always encouraging, if it wasn’t in his best interest or he may have wanted something different.

“He would always lay himself aside and ask, he’d say, ‘Hey go play, get it done.’”

Saturday followed the advice and played for the Packers in 2012 but didn’t finish the season as the starting center. After being named the backup center for the Pro Bowl Saturday announced his retirement and plans have him rejoin the Colts in some capacity began.

Knowing the franchise in and out having spent over a decade with them as a player, coming back was an easy decision.

“This organization is what I hope all the NFL teams strive to be,” said Saturday of the Colts. “In every negotiation I was involved with the PA (players association) and the NFL, I used us (the Colts) as an example of what you should strive to and I make no bones about it.

“This organization is the best in the business and it will continue.”

Over the next few years time will tell how far Saturday can go in the organization and if he could reach the upper management. One of his former teammates Ryan Diem, who was among those in the audience for the retirement ceremony, won’t rule anything out.

“He’s definitely got the chops for it. He knows the game, he knows what it takes to be a good leader and how to put together a talented group. We’ve been through it, we lived it. The time we had here was an unbelievable run and he saw a well-managed team.

“You never know, it could turn out for him.”For the time being, however, Saturday will keep his eyes on the Colts team that he never really left even while playing in Green Bay.”I watched what they did last year all the time and I’m excited about it,” said Saturday. “I’ve had the opportunity to meet (Andrew) Luck and some of the guys that I have relationships with anyway. It’s incredible.”This train is just starting to get rolling. I’m excited to keep on the journey and keep rolling as a Colt.”

 

 

Jim Irsay’s Opening Statement:

“Well, good afternoon. It’s great to be here. And a special day for the Horseshoe, the city of Indianapolis, the state of Indiana to have Jeff (Saturday) behind me here to finish his career as a Colt. When you talk about players that I’ve seen over the last 41 years, Jeff has meant so much to this franchise. I guess the one play that I remember was in the (AFC) Championship Game against New England when the ball was on the ground and Jeff came up with it. We all know what a big recovery that was, Jeff Saturday. Here’s a man who came into the league, no one thought he was going to do much. Wasn’t a first-round draft pick and it’s an individual who literally took this town and this state over with his integrity, with his love for the community, with this performance on the field, just an absolutely incredible individual. Going through the lockout, how he played a huge role in getting that settled. It was just absolutely incredible how Jeff has made his mark in this league and for the franchise. In my heart, when I think of one player where the heartbeat of those 12 to 13 years, you just think about Jeff, his integrity and always trying to be a better man, a better person, a better example, truly the leader of our team. When we broke it down in the locker room, he was the one that was putting the hand in the middle and said, ‘Let’s go out to battle.’ Like I said, when I think about Jeff I think about one of the greatest success stories in the National Football League. Of course he will be going into the Ring of Honor. Just to see him healthy, back in Indianapolis, for the franchise he’s getting used to retirement. He’s going to be involved with media relations, an ambassador for the franchise and we’ll see where it goes from there. He may have an interest eventually in coaching, may have an interest in even becoming a general manager but right now I’m going to sign this contract and let Jeff come up and sign his portion so we can make it official that Jeff is a Colt today, and this is not costing me anything. And that’s rare but Jeff did ask for a new pickup truck so I told him I would consider that. Without further ado, let me bring up the man of the hour, Jeff Saturday.”

Jeff Saturday’s Remarks:

“Back in Blue! That’s a good thing to say. First I just want to thank everybody for coming out, it does not go unnoticed. This does not happen for many players, especially many offensive linemen. I’m truly grateful and humbled for this opportunity. When Mr. Irsay and I were talking about it, it was something that meant a lot to me and meant a lot to him as well. I’m excited to retire as a Colt. I mean, this is my home. This is what we’ve supported for so many years. I was known, no matter what team I was playing for, as a Colt. So it’s good to put that horseshoe on and go out that way. I just want to take a few minutes to thank some people who have meant a lot to me in my life and a lot to my career.

First, I just want to say thank you to Mr. Irsay and the Colts organization. I tell you, you could not ask for a more classy organization. You couldn’t ask for a man and an owner who gave more to my wife and I for the endeavors that we do in the community. He was always there, no matter on the field or off the field. That’s rare in this business that he is as interactive as he is with his players, not only giving them his money and his time but helping us with pavilions and places to set things up. That was truly one of the things I admired most about him.

Next are the fans and the community. The fans in Indianapolis are the greatest ever. I’ve had my share of going other places, I’ve played on the road a number of times, and there is not a better group of people to support a football team than the Colts fans. Every time I walked out onto that field I knew it was a blessing to be out in front of you. You supported us. You challenged us when we didn’t show up the way we should have. I’m very appreciative of all the support you’ve given us. The community here, you’re my wife and I’s heart. That’s the reason we’re back in Indianapolis, we love living here. We love being a part of it. The people in this community, in this area, support each other and give to each other and we’re grateful to be a part of it. Hopefully we’ve given back some of what you’ve given to us because I could not feel more supported. Even coming back from Green Bay how many people sent me letters and emails and petitions about rejoining the Colts and all kinds of things that are just way above and beyond what people expect and what my expectations have been. Again I really appreciate all of what you’ve given us.

Now I’m going to get into the football side. To the trainers, who I see a bunch of them in the back and on the side, these guys work tirelessly on us. They give their lives, they give their family time to be here and to keep us healthy to play. I could go through the entire list of men who whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, Halloween, you name all the holidays that come through this season, these guys are here. They work endless hours and really give us the greatest care we could have ever asked for. The medical staff all the way around, I truly appreciate all that you’ve given to me. I’m coming out of this game fairly healthy and I credit that to a number of you guys because you guys have really given it your life and I really appreciate it and I hope you feel the respect that we have for each and every one of you.

Next is the equipment staff. This is my comic relief group, these are my boys. There’s nothing better than coming off the road or sitting back in the back offices and we’re all sitting back making fun of people and setting rookies up for pranks. You name it, these guys are always involved. They really are a class group. They work so hard to make sure the balls are right. I mean you guys have no idea how much stuff happens before the game, during the game, keeping our equipment right, making sure we don’t cut things that aren’t supposed to be cut, Jon Scott. So all those things that those guys do, it was so much fun to be with you guys. I loved my time with you and I really enjoyed it.

The next group are my coaches. I’ve been very fortunate in my NFL career to have some fantastic coaches. The three head coaches I was under here with (Jim) Mora, (Tony) Dungy and (Jim) Caldwell were fantastic, Dungy and Caldwell especially as I got older in my career. Not just great coaches but great mentors for my life. The faith example they set for me, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to be taught. I truly respect those men. The wins and losses never hurt right, a couple Super Bowls and a bunch of wins. But those are some fantastic men above and beyond football and I’m very fortunate to have them. The coordinator I played for most of my career, Tom Moore, and Clyde Christensen in my last year. I mean, wow, to have the offenses we had for so many years, these guys know what they’re doing. They were a blast to play for and I really enjoyed it. My offensive line coaches being Howard Mudd and Pete Metzelaars and Ron Prince my last years, they made me who I am. You look at all the accolades, you look at all the wins, I attribute that to those men. They taught, they would repeat, they would coach, they would watch film, they would share every example they possibly could and I just can’t thank those guys enough for what they meant to me on the field and as well off. Again those guys were mentors to me and truly helped me be the player that I turned out to be. I tell you the other thing that goes unnoticed is they challenge you in your life when you don’t even think you can do it. Those men challenged me in areas when I was afraid. I didn’t think I could do what they were asking me to do and they got the very best out of me by challenging me to be who they knew I could be rather than who I thought I was. I greatly appreciate that.

I’m just going to give you a list of players that I had the great honor of playing with and these are not in any order. This is my mind and it’s kind of scatterbrained but this to me is my Colts Hall of Fame. These are the guys that I played with for the most of my time. I start Marvin Harrison, Tarik Glenn, Peyton Manning, Hunter Smith, Reggie Wayne, Justin Snow, Ryan Diem, Dwight Freeney, Raheem Brock, Dallas Clark, Robert Mathis, Bob Sanders, Ryan Lilja, Jim Sorgi. I mean I think of every one of those guys and I could tell you stories about each and every one of them. Those men had a tremendous impact on my life. This is why we play the game, right? The players, the camaraderie we have in the locker room is unlike anything else on this planet. How much fun I’ve had in that locker room, how much fun I’ve had on plane trips on the way back from wins, on events you have to do in the community, you name it. All the things that we get to do together as a group, it made this job a family for me. I loved playing with each and every one of those guys and all the players that I had the opportunity to play with. I’ve played with a number of men who truly made a marked difference on my life. I encourage people to be a part of this game for that reason. I’ve played other team sports, I’ve been involved in a lot of other things, but football is the ultimate team sport. These men became my family and made this thing a true sport. We made it happen and we watched the city turn into a football city and I watched all these men mature and have families. We began to do life together and that’s unparalleled and that’s something I will never forget and I always will remember.

My kids who are all sitting back here, this is the most well behaved I’ve ever seen them, they’re perfect. We’ve scared them to death, threatened lives. You know what this is, this is my perspective in life. When I come home every day, this is what I get, win or lose, playing bad, playing good, whatever the press is saying about me, they keep it real with their dad. They keep me the man that I am and they keep me so happy to come home. Part of the reason why I’m really excited about retiring is being able to spend more time with them. I love them and they’re a blast to be around. I’ve got so many stories about each of them but just as you look at them, all of the things that we’ve got to experience through this game makes me that much more appreciative of the game I’ve gotten to play. They’ve been a part of it in locker rooms, knocking some of our star players out of the way to catch tape in the locker room postgame, you name it these guys have done it. It’s been a lot of fun to have them and have that experience of being a dad while I was playing a great game.

Finally, but obviously not least is my wife Karen, who probably is the most selfless person I’ve ever been around. I appreciate you letting me live my dream because you did and – I can’t look at her because I’m going to lose it – all the tickets, all the organizations, all the things that she does for our family as I’m preparing to play this game. She made my life what it is and she’s so fantastic in the community. She’s so fantastic to her friends and the people she loves. She’s the most loyal person I’ve ever met. It’s just been an incredible marriage. I’ve been around long enough to know they don’t come around that often, a wife this great. She’s my bride, we have so much fun. We’ve got a lot to look forward to and I’m excited about that. She is my true companion and it’s very special to have her in my life and to be able to go through this experience.

I really appreciate you guys and being here again. Thank you again to the Colts and Mr. Irsay, I appreciate the time. I’m officially retired! I mean, it’s a done deal.”

Would you comment on your playing time with Peyton Manning and one of the greatest decades in NFL history?

“I like to tell people I rode his coattails for a long time. He is an incredible teammate. He’s probably, not probably, one of the greatest leaders I’ve ever been around. In fact, my experience in Green Bay gave me even more insight to how special he is as a player, and as a teammate. I really enjoyed my time with him. We used to call him ‘Coach Manning’ and used to bust him up about how hard he worked. He showed up early. He left late. He led by example. He never expected you to give anything that he wasn’t going to give himself. The relationship between a center and a quarterback is special. We loved each other but we could fight each other as well. We could bump heads and there was always a mutual respect. It never got any further than that. It was always on the field. Off the field, we were friends. He’s taken me to places and given me gifts and allowed me to do things that I would never have the opportunity to do. But that’s what he does. He gives out of his heart. He knows when it means something to somebody. He’s one of the most giving guys in that way. He’s truly a special player. The record that he and I set as center and quarterback, it’s probably my most favorite just because as you look at it, it’s a combination of how many things we had to go through, how many things we had to stay healthy and battle through injuries to keep going, it is a tremendous honor to hold that distinction with him of the greatest or the longest tenure of a quarterback-center. So very special.”

How excited are you to be in the organization and what type of jobs does that entail?

“I don’t know if we have the details. I’m very excited. One thing, I’ll be very frank, Mr. Irsay even last year when I was debating to keep playing or go on he said, ‘Listen, if it’s still in your heart, you should go somewhere where you feel like you have the best chance.’ That’s the kind of owner he is. He was always encouraging, if it wasn’t in his best interest or he may have wanted something different. He would always lay himself aside and ask, he’d say, ‘Hey go play, get it done.’ But I’m a Colt. I love representing this organization. This organization is what I hope all the NFL teams strive to be. In every negotiation I was involved with the PA (players association) and the NFL, I used us (the Colts) as an example of what you should strive to and I make no bones about it. This organization is the best in the business and it will continue. I watched what they did last year all the time and I’m excited about it. I’ve had the opportunity to meet (Andrew) Luck and some of the guys that I have relationships with anyway. It’s incredible. This train is just starting to get rolling. I’m excited to keep on the journey and keep rolling as a Colt.”

Besides the Super Bowl, do you have a favorite memory as a Colt?

“The AFC Championship game trumps them all for me. Getting to recover a fumble for a touchdown, get to slay the Patriots, all those things, and the offensive line play in that game was probably the best we had played. We took that game over. So the five of us imposed our will on those guys. There are very few big games where you watch that happen and to be a part of that was super special. That’s the one for me, even above the Super Bowl. That’s the one for me.”

What did the year away give for your perspective on the Colts franchise?

“Going over there, it made me realize what I had here for so long. I don’t think as a player when you’re in it, it really hits you or dons on you how great what we were involved with was. Like you said, being the No. 1 franchise over 10 years or whatever all those things were. Those are just kind of accolades you kind of move through when you’re playing because you are ready to move onto the next and keep going. To see it when you’re outside of it and see how other people viewed us and continue to view us is really special. I don’t think many players get that perspective. So yeah, it meant a lot to me. It did a lot for helping me to mature as a player and just seeing it helped me realize how many great relationships I had here and how special my 13 years really were.”

INDIANAPOLIS – Jeff Saturday walks away from the National Football League Thursday—and for at least one more day, he’ll technically be a Colt.

Most fans would argue that he’ll always be one.

Saturday, the center who anchored the Colts offensive line for 13 seasons, will announce his retirement this afternoon at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.

He joined the team in 1999. At the time, he was working as a manager at an electrical supply store.

Considered undersized for his position, Saturday wasn’t drafted in 1998. The Baltimore Ravens signed him as a free agent in April. In June, the team waived him. With no other football prospects on the horizon, Saturday went back to Raleigh, N.C., to work at the store.

The Colts signed him as a free agent in 1999. He started only two games and was primarily a backup. The next season, he started all 16 games for the Colts. Together, he and quarterback Peyton Manning defined an era of Colts football, churning out repeated playoff appearances and winning records. It all culminated in a championship during Super Bowl XLI on a rain-drenched night in Miami.

With Saturday making the line calls, the Colts surrendered the fewest sacks in the NFL during the 2004, 2005 and 2006 seasons. Two of his most memorable plays came during the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots. On one play, Saturday recovered a fumble from Dominic Rhodes in the end zone for a touchdown. On another, he manhandled nose tackle Vince Wilfork, clearing the way for Joseph Addai’s go-ahead touchdown run.

Saturday was part of the team that went 14-0 in 2009 before Colts management gave up on a perfect season. The Colts ended up losing the Super Bowl that year. In a recent interview with the Indianapolis Star’s Bob Kravitz, Saturday acknowledged that failing to pursue perfection was the only regret of his football career.

Saturday became a free agent following the 2011 season. With longtime quarterback Peyton Manning recovering from a neck injury, Colts owner Jim Irsay decided to part ways with the franchise’s star player. The team cleaned house, firing coach Jim Caldwell and president Bill Polian. Veterans, including Saturday, weren’t offered contracts or were cut.

The Green Bay Packers signed Saturday to a two-year deal, but the years spent on the Colts offensive line had taken their toll, and he lost his starting job late in the season. He was still selected as a back-up center for the NFC in the Pro Bowl, where he and Manning—now with the Denver Broncos—shared a final snap despite representing teams in different conferences.

Some of Saturday’s most important contributions came off the field. The former Colts center was instrumental in solving a negotiations deadlock during the NFL’s most recent labor dispute. He and his wife were also very active in the community.

Saturday is expected to work in some capacity for the Colts. He’s also a lock for the team’s Ring of Honor.

INDIANAPOLIS – When he said for the first time that he would retire, he was still wearing the green and gold.

When Jeff Saturday does that officially, he will be wearing the blue and the white.

On Tuesday the Colts announced that Saturday will retire as a member of the team at a news conference on Thursday. The move has been rumored for a week and will likely involve Saturday signing a one-day contract with the team as a number of NFL veterans have done in the past.

“The years I spent with the Colts were truly remarkable and I am honored to be able to retire as a member of one of the classiest organizations in the NFL,” said Saturday in a release from the team.. “I also want to thank Green Bay for the opportunity to compete as a member of the Packers last season. During my time in Indianapolis, I made tremendous relationships with numerous teammates, coaches and staff within the organization. It was also a pleasure playing for Mr. Irsay who is a wonderful owner. He gave tremendous support for my wife and I in all of our community endeavors.

“There were so many successful seasons that I was part of, but nothing tops our Super Bowl championship during the 2006 season. I’ll never forget the support of Colts fans and the City of Indianapolis during my time here. My wife and I love this community and have established our roots here. We’re looking forward to the next chapter in Indianapolis.”

Saturday enjoyed one of the longest careers with the Indianapolis era of the Colts playing 13 seasons, which is third all-time for the franchise. His 197 games rank fourth on the team and in those games he earned three AP All-Pro along with five Pro Bowl selections.

The center was among the many of those not retained following the 2011 Colts season and signed with the Green Bay Packers for the 2012 season. Before making his final Pro Bowl appearance, Saturday announced that he would retire following that game. As a gesture Saturday took a snap from Peyton Manning-his longtime quarterback in Indianapolis-in the Pro Bowl.

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