Even though Peyton Manning is in Denver and Bill Polian is on ESPN, it is my sincere hope that Colts fans will continue to hate the Patriots. Bill Belichick is still there. Tom Brady is still there. Jonathan Kraft (the annoying son of Bob who often enjoys trash talking the Colts) is still there. So, even though Andrew Luck is now our quarterback and Ryan Grigson is the G.M., the Pats v. Colts rivalry should continue. It's just good for the sport.
That said, just because the two franchises hate each other doesn't mean players on the team need to. Case in point, newly-retired Patriots left tackle Matt Light went on NFL Network recently and said the Colts DE-OLB Dwight Freeney was the best player he ever faced. Light was on the NFL Network set in Los Angeles during a segment when Freeney was conferenced in for an interview. During the segment, Light and Freeney acknowledged that, despite playing against each other for ten years, the two had never spoken.
"We never had a formal conversation while we played," said Light as Freeney nodded on the video screen.
Light, a Purdue grad, took the opportunity to give these words to Freeney:
Light: Thank you. Thank you so much for giving me the ability to dog cuss myself week in and week out, looking forward to your match-up. I tell you, it was an honor to play against a guy like you.
Freeney smiled and acknowledged Light's praise. Light went on to ask Freeney about his adjustment to playing OLB now after 10 years of playing DE. Freeney acknowledged that this is a pretty significant change for him.
Freeney: I know the coach is going to be yelling at me the first few weeks.
He also said that the Colts stayed in "constant contact" with him during the free agency period when just about everyone was speculating that the Colts would trade Freeney, who is in the final year of his contract.
They were in constant contact with me throughout the whole process. They let me know that I'm their guy, and I'm not leaving, and they want to kind of build the defense around me and what me and Robert [Mathis] do.
Freeney is 32 and his cap hit against the Colts is $19 million for 2012. Unless he agrees to a substantially reduced salary in 2013, this season will be his final one in Indianapolis and the Colts will find someone else to build the defense around.
That said, the interview on NFL Network was cool just to see two old rivals (Light and Freeney) talk formally for the first time. I've often felt that Light used to give Freeney fits, and that his retirement will be felt in New England. I know they have Nate Solder, but just ask Colts fans how "easy" it is to replace a bookend left tackle.
The name Tony Ugoh still gives me the shakes.