Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Four Colts Make NFL All-Pro Team


January 10, 2006

INDIANAPOLIS — Bob Sanders helped change the image of the Indianapolis Colts' defense with a few big hits. The sports writers and broadcasters rewarded him Monday by making him among the Colts' league-high four players on this year's Associated Press All-Pro team.

"Knowing the way I play and the attitude I have for this game, I felt like I was the guy who should take it to another level," Sanders said. "It has to do with being physical and being aggressive."

Joining Sanders, a safety, on the first team were quarterback Peyton Manning, center Jeff Saturday and defensive end Dwight Freeney. Seattle also had four players named to the first team.

Receiver Marvin Harrison and linebacker Cato June were both second-team selections.

For the high-scoring Colts, it was an unusually balanced mix, and Sanders was the biggest surprise. The second-year player from Iowa, whose rookie season was limited by injuries, made the kind of impact coach Tony Dungy expected when the Colts took him in the second round of the 2004 draft.

He finished with 118 tackles _ second on the team _ had one interception, forced one fumble and recovered a fumble. It was enough to earn 22 of 50 votes, second to Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu who had 37.

"We had the strength and the speed on this defense, but we needed to become more physical," Sanders said. "And this scheme puts me in position to make plays."

Manning, a two-time MVP who finished second in this year's MVP and offensive player of the year balloting, was named the top quarterback for the third straight year. Only four Colts -- Jim Parker (eight), Gino Marchetti (six) and Lenny Moore and Art Donovan (four each) -- were chosen to more consecutive All-Pro teams.

Manning also is the first Colts quarterback to be honored in three successive seasons. John Unitas made the team five times but never more than twice in a row.
"There's no question the last three years have been the three best of my career," Manning said. "To do it three years in a row, I take a lot of pride in that and I've had some good coaching and some good help."

Freeney, who was second in defensive player of the year voting, earned his second straight selection to the All-Pro team. He was the top vote-getter among all defensive ends.

Saturday was honored for the first time in his seven-year career. He received 28 votes, nearly three times as many as Chicago's Olin Kreutz who had 10. And like Manning, Sanders and Freeney, he will start in the Pro Bowl.

"I'm extremely excited about it. It really is a great achievement," Saturday said. "It's been good, and hopefully things will come together for us as a team."

During the offseason, Dungy said he wanted the Colts to be more physical on defense this year, and Sanders seemed to take the plea personally. With Sanders healthy, the addition of run-stuffing defensive tackle Corey Simon and the emergence of linebackers June and Gary Brackett, jumped from the No. 29 defense to No. 11.

"We've been healthier this year, which allowed us to practice more and the guys carried it out," Dungy said. "Bob Sanders has certainly been the ring leader, but it's not just him."

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