INDIANAPOLIS — They jokingly refer to themselves as the old men of the Indianapolis Colts. Wide receiver Reggie Wayne, outside linebacker Dwight Freeney, outside linebacker Robert Mathis and free safety Antoine Bethea are the primary remnants of outstanding Colts teams of the recent past.
At the end of the current season, the four will have combined for 20 Pro Bowl appearances, one Super Bowl championship, two Super Bowl appearances, three AFC championship games and seven AFC South titles.
Three of them — Wayne, Mathis and Bethea — expect to end their outstanding National Football League careers in Indianapolis. Freeney, however, may have played his final game in a Colts uniform yesterday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Such is life in the NFL, where the initials often mean Not For Long.
Freeney’s contract with the Colts expires at the end of the season. While both sides have expressed a desire for the franchise’s all-time sacks leader to be back with the team next year and for the foreseeable future, professional football is a business, first and foremost.
If a deal can be hammered out that is agreeable — and workable — for all parties, then Freeney might also play his entire NFL career in Indianapolis.
“I think [the idea that yesterday’s home game might be his last with the Colts] does kind of creep in. I think anyone who tells you it doesn’t is lying. You don’t know what’s going to happen at the end of the day. The strangest things happen,” Freeney said late last week.
“Look at last year, everybody thought [former Indianapolis quarterback] Peyton [Manning] would be here and he’s not. Two years ago was his last game. Hopefully it’s not [for me] but this is a business from their side and my side. I guess we will figure it out when the season is over. I just appreciate everything this city has done for me, the fans have done for me. It’s been a great ride and hopefully we can continue it.”