Super Bowl Champion Colts Ready For Scouting Combine

Monday, February 19th 2007, 10:18 pm
By: News On 6

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ Tony Dungy will be back.

Dungy made it clear during a press conference Monday in Indianapolis, just days before the start of the NFL Scouting Combine.

``Obviously, you want to come back. You want to defend the title. Weve got such a great group of guys, that thats eventually what draws you back every year,'' the Colts coach said.

``I wouldnt say it was an easy decision, but it was the right one, and it didnt take overly long to make.''

While there had been speculation concerning Dungy's return for the 2007 season following Indianapolis' Super Bowl win, the suspense apparently wasn't killing team president Bill Polian.

``I wasnt terribly concerned,'' he said.

And with that out of the way, it was time to focus on next season.

The Colts' first NFL championship since the franchise moved from Baltimore 23 years ago also gave them the last pick _ 32nd _ in the draft in April, meaning there's precious little time to decide what direction to focus on.

``We know we have to get back to work,'' Dungy said. ``I still haven't come down yet. I'm a pretty even-keel guy, but it's still a special time. It's been great, it's been fun, but we have to zero in on the 2007 season.''

The first step will be the annual Scouting Combine that begins Thursday in the Colts' home stadium, the RCA Dome. More than 300 top college players were invited to the annual series of workouts, interviews and physical and psychological tests that could play a big part in how high they're drafted _ if they're drafted at all.

Another consideration for the Colts is free agency.

Team president Bill Polian put the franchise tag on defensive end Dwight Freeney on Monday, keeping him with the Colts one more year while they work on a long-term contract. But among the prominent free agents are running back Dominic Rhodes, who rushed for more than 100 yards in the Super Bowl win over Chicago, along with linebacker Cato June, cornerback Nick Harper and linebacker Rob Morris.

``You have your wish list,'' Dungy said. ``You know if you get Item A, you may not be able to get Item B, C or D. It's just a tough road to navigate. As a coach, you want everybody back, but you know that's not going to happen.''

Polian said the Colts are ready for the combine, but even though the run defense was the worst in the NFL during the regular season, he's not focusing on any particular position in the combine or in the draft.

``We go across the board,'' Polian said. ``Our preparation takes us from the first pick in the draft to the 340th or however many there are. We evaluate every player, regardless of position.''

He said the staff won't begin making specific projections until about three weeks before the draft.

``I'm not a guy where the combine makes or breaks players for me. It's a confirmation and information process,'' Polian said.

Dungy also said a player's performance in the combine's skill tests isn't necessarily what's most important.

``I'm not a big `measurables' guy,'' Dungy said. ``Attitude always tells you a lot. ... It's just getting a feel for them. Sometimes, it's just a 5-minute conversation in the hallway.''