Center of AttentionFriday, March 23rd, 2012
Jeff Saturday has signed with the Packers. What? You didn’t catch that headline among this week’s blanket coverage of Peyton Manning taking his talents to Denver, Tebowmania jetting to New York and the Bounty Beatdown in the Bayou?
It’s true. Unless you’re a Colts fan, a diehard football fan, or a branch on Saturday’s family tree, this likely slipped through the cracks. And yet, the transaction is as much Manning’s loss as it is Aaron Rodgers’ gain. Saturday was a free agent. One Manning clearly wanted in Bronco orange. For all but the star quarterback’s first two years in Indy, Saturday was his trusty center. A five-time Pro Bowler. One of the brightest and most respected o-linemen in the league. While we (and opposing teams) spent all that time on gamedays trying to distinguish Manning’s flailing dummy calls from his legitimate audibles, the man in the middle with the omnipresent beard was always in the know. There were occasions, in fact, when Saturday was not only changing protections to accommodate Manning’s adjustments, but actually switching-up PLAYS himself… a privilege that, to the best of my knowledge, hasn’t been afforded to too many other centers, if any, at all.
When waxing poetic about Manning’s time in the Horseshoe helmet, many will point to Marvin Harrison as Manning’s Ol’ Reliable, the player who most contributed to number 18′s success. But sensing first-hand how uneasy Peyton would be on the rare occasions Saturday missed time with injury, I could envision him recreating that Jerry McGuire scene with his center. “You… complete… me.”
At a point in his career where sound protection is crucial, one of Manning’s most prized security blankets didn’t make the Mayflower bound for Mile High. The last thing a QB coming off four neck procedures wants to worry about is getting crushed if the center doesn’t get the protections right. Or having to pounce on a bobbled exchange. Not to mention he’s teaching his complex system to a mostly new cast of characters.
Reggie Wayne remains in Indy. Saturday is now a Sunday blessing for Rodgers. Get Dallas Clark on the Broncos Bat Phone. Stat.