INDIANAPOLIS – Colts coach Chuck Pagano didn't have anything new to say about Peyton Manning, but the team's defensive bookends are a different story.
Pagano gave the most vivid hint yet that the team hopes to keep Dwight Freeney and free-agent-to-be Robert Mathis as the pivotal pieces of the defense, even with a switch from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4.
“Without talking about numbers, I know those guys have been game wreckers for a long time,” Pagano said Thursday during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. “Offenses have to account for both of those guys. First and foremost, we're going to make sure we put both of those guys in position to make plays. I don't think it would be very smart on my part or anyone else's part to not make sure that doesn't happen.
“Both of those guys are great players and have been great players here for a long time. Those guys are Colts through and through. We fully expect to have them here as long as we can.”
Mathis is among several free agents for the Colts, including wide receivers Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon and center Jeff Saturday.
With the Colts' offensive line still relatively young and unproven outside of Saturday and Ryan Diem, Pagano seems interested in the possibility of Saturday returning. Saturday has said he is considering retirement.
Pagano talked to Saturday during some Super Bowl events. He said Saturday will be discussing with his family whether to keep playing.
“Right now, Jeff is just trying to decide whether he wants to keep going and how much gas is left in the tank,” Pagano said. “We certainly think there is some there, and we would love to have him be a part of our program moving forward.”
Pagano and Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson both emphasized that no decision is imminent on Manning. The Colts must pick up the $28 million option on Manning's contract by March 8 or allow the iconic quarterback to become a free agent.
Pagano did mention that he thinks “the sky's the limit” for possible No.1 pick Andrew Luck.