Unlike the parting from Dwight Freeney, with Austin Collie leaving the Colts we're left wondering "What if?" What if his career in Indianapolis had not ended because of concussions?
Yeah, it sounds cruel, but that's life in the NFL. Our cruelty isn't because we detest Collie as a person. In many ways, we have to be cruel to be kind. We imagine the Colts are following the same train of thought. The reality is Collie's football career as a player should have ended the moment he sustained concussion No. 4 (that we know of) against the Steelers in preseason last year.
Austin Collie sustained four concussions in two years, including three in one season (2011). Yes, yes, yes, we know the official line is that Collie had two dingers in '11. Bullsh*t. He got a concussion against the Patriots in Week 8 and the Colts tried desperately to hide it from the league and the media, a clear violation of league rules. When Collie got No. 4 in Pittsburgh last year, we wrote that it was time for the Colts to send him on his way.
Some were displeased with us for writing this, making the ridiculous statement that it was not for us to determine whether or not Collie should play. For starters, we don't have that kind of power over people's affairs. Hell, I can barely dress myself. Second, the article wasn't meant to decide whether or not Collie should continue his career. We felt that Collie should not continue his career with the Colts. If he wants to go to Kansas City, San Diego, or the CFL and suffer through four more concussions in two seasons, that's his business.
We just didn't want to see his seemingly self-destructive behavior encouraged by the team we root for.
Now, Collie and the Colts have parted, and unlike the parting from Dwight Freeney, with Austin we're left wondering "What if?" What if his career in Indianapolis had not ended because of concussions? Consider:
In 16 games his rookie year, playing almost exclusively as the slot receiver, Collie caught 60 balls for 679 yards and 7 touchdowns. His masterpiece was the AFC Championship against the Jets in 2010 where he caught 7 balls for 123 yards and a score. In 2010, he started off the season on an absolute tear, catching 45 balls for 503 yards and 7 touchdowns after just eight weeks! Collie was on pace for 80 catches, over 1,000 yards, and double-digit touchdowns that year.
Then, this happened in Philadelphia:
Perfectly legal hit. Sadly, it's the throw from Peyton Manning that served up Collie for that collision. It's a critcism of Manning that, frankly, is valid. How many times did we see receivers like Collie, Brandon Stokley, or Dallas Clark blown up because of how Manning delivered the pass?
Collie tried to return two weeks later, but sustained another concussion (unofficially) versus the Patriots. He sat out the next four games and returned to face the Jaguars in Week 14. He started off strong, catching 8 passes for 87 yards.
Then, this happened:
Again, another perfectly legal hit. Three concussions in one season. Collie simply was not the same after that. He ended 2010 with 58 catches for 649 yards and 8 TDs. He turned in a respectible 2011 campaign, considering he had Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter, and Dan Orlovsky throwing him the football. 2012 looked like it would be a return to greatness for Collie. He and new quarterback Andrew Luck were developing tremendous chemistry in training camp and preseason.
Then, the Pittsburgh preseason game.
Collie sat out the rest of preseason following concussion No. 4. He also missed the first two games of the regular season. He returned Week Three against the Jaguars only to injure his knee in the first half. He was placed on Injured Reserve, and his season was over.
Had Collie not sustained that concussion against the Eagles in 2010, he might have finished that season with 80 catches. All indications were that he would improve, season-after-season. If so, Collie could have put up Wes Welker-type numbers.
Per Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star, Collie plans to continue his career playing in the NFL. Personally, we think that's a mistake, but - as people enjoy pointing out - that isn't our call. They're right. It isn't.
We just didn't want Austin to continue jeopardizing his brain while wearing the Colts uniform. Yeah, that sounds cruel, but it's how we feel around here.
Cruel to be kind.