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Tribute to Tarik Glenn

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As fans, we got some closure with this. Tarik Glenn walked away from football yesterday after spending about a week discussing the situation with coaches and management. In a rare well-written article that provides thoughtful insight, the Indy Star's Bob Kravitz articulated why Tarik decided to walk away from about $5 million this season, and a jack pot lottery next season when Tarik would become a free agent:
Glenn is doing something few athletes do in professional sports: He is leaving on his own terms. He is writing his own script. Most guys have to be extracted from the locker room with the Jaws of Life. Most guys stay too long, hang on for the money or for the make-believe life they will never know again in retirement.

Glenn was different from the beginning. And he was different in the end. Admirable, every step of the way.

Most important, he is getting away from this brutal game with his health. When he is 40 and 50 and older, he will still be able to walk, to play with his kids, to enjoy a quality of life that is often denied those who give their lives, and their bodies, to the NFL.

Glenn is getting out while he still can, in one piece, with a sense of peace.

For the reasons Kravitz states above, I have no problem with Tarik walking away. Is it annoying that this is happening before Training Camp? Yes. As a fan, I'm all ready and geared up to start the season. Then, this hits. But, unknown to me and about everyone else, retirement had been brewing with Tarik for some time. And unlike a lot of athletes, Tarik did not overstay his welcome. He's walking away healthy, happy, and content.

Why would anyone be upset with that?

To give folks some perspective on just how great Tarik Glenn was, for 9 years he manned the LT position on the Colts o-line. He missed a total of 6 games throughout his entire 10 year career; all of them in one season, 2003. Think about that for a second. While you do, here's a picture of Tarik:

During his 9 years at LT (his rookie year he played guard), he protected one quarterback: Peyton Manning. Through all the highs (winning the Super Bowl), and all the lows (the o-line choking in the 2006 playoff game against Pittsburgh), Glenn and Manning always protected each other. When morons like Terry Bradshaw and Mike Florio crowed that Manning had called out his o-line after the Pittsburgh playoff loss in 2006, Tarik was quick to dismiss their opinions and tell it like it was. When Colts fans bitched and moaned about Tarik's annoying false starts, Manning would state right in and say, without hesitation, that he'd only want Tarik Glenn at LT.

It seems like an eternity ago that Tarik was taken #19 overall in the 1997 draft. He was drafted by then-Colts GM Bill Tobin, made famous for putting Mel Kiper Jr. in his place, and essentially cementing Kiper's career as ESPN's resident draft hack. Tarik was drafted to protect Jim Harbaugh, but he played the 1997 season at guard while fellow 1997 draftee Adam Meadows played LT as a rookie. Needless to say, Harbaugh took a beating that season and the Colts finished 3-13. The next year the Colts fired Tobin, drafted Peyton Manning, moved Tarik to LT, Meadows to guard, and the rest is history.

Throughout Tarik's career, he was under-appreciated. He played his college ball at Cal, and while there he was also unappreicated. At the pro level, inferior players like Baltimore's Jonathan Ogden went to Pro Bowls over Tarik, even though Tarik's QBs got sacked less and his RBs ran for more yardage overall. It wasn't until Ogden was exposed as a fraud by Dwight Freeney that Tarik started getting some Pro Bowl love. From 2000-2007, Tarik was the best LT in the AFC. From 2004-2007, he was the best in the NFL. Better than Ogden. Better than Seattle's Walter Jones. Better than them all. However, because Tarik was invited to so few Pro Bowls, and never made an All-Pro team, he won't be considered for the Hall of Fame. At Tarik's retirement announcement, someone asked Bill Polian if Tarik was a Ring of Famer. The answer is yes, absolutely. I personally don't want to see another player wearing #78. It's weird enough seeing rookie Michael Coe wear #32. #78 is Tarik's number, and nobody should ever wear it again in a Colts uniform.

So, Tarik is gone. This means one of the most important positions for an entire club (the LT position) is now vacant. What does this mean for the Colts? Obviously, anti-Colts fans are jumping up and down for joy, claiming this is now what will doom the Colts. It's important to note these people said the same thing last year when Edgerrin James was not re-signed. Look how that turned out.

It's important to stress that the Colts had some idea Tarik's tenure with the Colts was ending. There were no plans to re-sign him after this season. If there were plans, why spend a first round pick in 2008 to draft Tony Ugoh in the second round of 2007? Ugoh possesses all the physical tools to succeed Tarik and write another chapter as a LT for the Colts. He has an outstanding o-line coach in Howard Mudd teaching him the way, and a steady crop of veterans and Pro Bowlers available and willing to tutor him. If Ugoh isn't ready, the Colts have guys like second year player Charlie Johnson, who impressed coaches and players last year while filling in at RT. Even Tarik mentioned Charlie during his press conference yesterday:

"I really believe in Charlie. I've always thought he was a really good player, a talented player. He's smart. He's athletic. He's competitive. He'll be able to do the job.
If you want to feel better about this whole thing, read this article on The Colts have tremendous depth along the o-line, and their system forces their players to learn multiple positions. We have a whole Training Camp and pre-season to see who will win the position.

When all is said and done, the LT position will fall into good hands, and the Colts offense will glide along just fine, thank you very much.

Still, no one will ever replace Tarik Glenn. He was a premiere LT, a team leader, a locker room presence, a community provider, and a genuinely great person to have on your club. Guys like that come once a blue moon, and we fans should appreciate them when they come along. And when they walk away with the grace and dignity of a Tarik Glenn, we should appreciate them even more.