INDIANAPOLIS – Marvin Harrison can play wherever he wants now.
In Indianapolis, he will always be a Colt.
Team owner Jim Irsay on Tuesday grudgingly honored Harrison’s request to be released, a move that becomes official today.
Team officials turned the news conference to announce Harrison’s release – which the receiver didn’t attend – into an emotional tribute to one of the most identifiable players in the franchise’s Indianapolis era.
They took turns recounting stories that stretched back more than a decade. Irsay’s halting words at the start and team president Bill Polian’s reddened eyes at the end were indicative of how hard it was to let go of one of the best receivers in NFL history.
I’ve always treasured the time I’ve had with him because I respected him so much as a person, Polian said. He worked so hard at his craft, he was always so prepared, and he did every little thing he could to win.
And he did it with quiet dignity, superb professionalism and with a sense of contribution to the team that really is second to none.
Irsay saw the announcement as more of a temporary goodbye than a permanent farewell.
He plans to induct Harrison into the team’s Ring of Honor after he retires and expects Harrison to return to the city where he became a star.
Irsay also wants to re-sign Harrison again, one day, so he can leave the game as a Colts player.
The move was made because Harrison’s price tag was too expensive.
Harrison is the second member of the Colts’ original triplets – Edgerrin James and Peyton Manning were the others – to depart.
It will be strange to line up under center and not see No. 88 out on my right, Manning said in a statement issued by the team. He is a Hall of Fame receiver, I am proud to have played with him, and he will always be an Indianapolis Colt in my book.
The 36-year-old receiver would have counted $13.4 million against the cap in 2009, the highest of any NFL receiver. Although Indianapolis wanted to restructure Harrison’s contract, Polian said there was no feasible way to do it.
Releasing Harrison saves the Colts about $6 million, with about $7.4 million in prorated bonuses still on the books.
With three-time Pro Bowler Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez ready to make up for Harrison’s absence, they couldn’t afford the luxury of keeping three former first-round picks.