INDIANAPOLIS – Colts fans should consider Jeff Saturday's return as a dress rehearsal for an epic reunion a year from now.
When Saturday returns to Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday as part of the Green Bay Packers, he'll undoubtedly be welcomed back with a huge ovation, the usual Colts-generated video review of his career and well wishes from everyone all day, other than the 60 minutes of actual game time.
Saturday's return as an opposing player after 13 years with the Colts will eventually pale in comparison to the one that'll come a year from now. Just wait until the Denver Broncos come in with quarterback Peyton Manning in 2013. I think the term hype will need to be redefined when that day arrives.
For now, however, Saturday will be a center of attention Sunday, from the time he steps into the foreign locker room. “I don't think I've ever even been to the visitor's locker room,” he said during a conference call Wednesday.
Saturday will display that old familiar stance, pointing to defensive schemes and making line adjustments, this time with Aaron Rodgers, rather than Manning, standing behind him.
It'll be surreal for Colts fans and strange for Saturday.
“It's all going to look different and, obviously, coming out and seeing the team,” Saturday said. “You're so accustomed to seeing that blue and the horseshoe and the whole deal. Hopefully I don't jog the wrong way early. I'll turn around and head back towards the right side.”
Saturday left the Colts in free agency, one of the painful goodbyes necessary when Colts owner Jim Irsay decided to stage a complete makeover of the team in building for the future. Saturday, Manning, Dallas Clark, Gary Brackett and Joseph Addai, among others, parted ways after last season.
Irsay offered Saturday a front-office job if he retired, Saturday said.
“I gave it its due consideration,” Saturday said of potential retirement. “I didn't know what I was going to do, to be very frank. I think I made that frank with everybody. I was going to give myself time to decide. I went through it, my wife and I prayed about it and talked about it."
The opportunity to sign with a Super Bowl contender intrigued Saturday, who had been such an integral part of the Colts' run of seven straight seasons with 12 or more wins, two AFC Championships and one Super Bowl title.
He also went from playing with one elite quarterback in Manning to another in Rodgers.
Rodgers is younger and more mobile than Manning, but both are adept at running a high-octane offense that requires substantial physical and cerebral play from the center.
“You're going with two great quarterbacks who know how to win football games, and it's fun,” Saturday said. “You watch them do their thing, and you can get caught up in being a fan of those guys as well. I love watching both of them play. I still watch Peyton play his games. We still text back and forth. It's exciting when you get around players who are good football players and make plays. It's fun to hang around.”
Saturday said it took him a while to get used to wearing the Packers uniform. He and his family plan to return to Indianapolis where he still has a home once he retires, probably after next season. He said he would consider a post-career job with the Colts.
The Colts usually show a video highlight when former players return, and undoubtedly will for Saturday, who not only represented the Colts so well but also worked to end the last NFL labor dispute as a player representative. Saturday expects a warm reception.
“I hope they put some good stuff up there,” Saturday said of the expected video salute. “You appreciate it. As a player, man I gave the same as I'm doing here I gave everything I had. I played as hard as I could. I felt like I led the team on and off the field and did the best job that I could. I'm proud of the time that I was there and always look fondly upon that time.”
Colts fans look fondly on Saturday's time playing in Indianapolis, no question. His return as an opponent may prompt some melancholy.
It'll also prepare them for another similar, even more emotional, old-home day next year.