Bob Sanders’ Legacy with Indianapolis Colts

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I now have had a few days to think about how Bob Sanders, who on Friday was released by the Indianapolis Colts after seven seasons with the team, will be remembered by those invested in the Indianapolis-based franchise.

The safety had numerous moments of brilliance during those seven years, including a dynamic run to victory in Super Bowl XLI and being named the Associated Press’ Defensive Player of the Year for the 2007 season.

Unfortunately for Sanders and the Colts, however, those brilliant moments were few and far between.

By Drew Allen

Injuries have severely limited the former Iowa standout’s availability during his professional career. Sanders played in just 48 of 112 possible regular-season games with Indianapolis and saw the field in just nine contests the last three seasons. He went down for good in 2010 during the Colts’ opening-week loss at Houston with an elbow injury.

Sanders’ unfavorable recent history prompted Indy to terminate the safety’s five-year contract which he signed at the end of the 2007 season. Sanders was scheduled to make $6 million in 2011, according to Colts Cap.net.

A few thoughts on the release itself:

  • The Colts made the right decision to part ways with Sanders. The team simply could not afford to keep such an injury-prone player at $6 million. The move will provide Indy with payroll relief and eliminate uncertainty as to whether (or how long) Sanders will be available. Four-year veteran Melvin Bullitt has proven more than capable in Sanders’ absence, though Bullitt himself suffered a season-ending injury four weeks into 2010.
  • The franchise also was right to wait until this offseason to make the move. Many fans wondered aloud during the last three years why the Colts wouldn’t consider releasing Sanders. Doing so after the 2008 season in which the safety missed all but six games would have made no financial sense for Indy, who had just signed Sanders to his five-year, $37.5 million deal. The guarantees would have put the Colts in salary-cap hell, especially since they already were cutting wide receiver Marvin Harrison. Additionally, Indy could afford to keep Sanders on board following his two-game 2009 season in which the Colts advanced to Super Bowl XLIV without the former All-Pro. Sanders received just under $4 million in 2010 and were able to retain backup Bullitt and Pro Bowl free safety Antoine Bethea at the same time. The Colts were able to keep all their capable safeties on the roster for at least one more year, so why not?

However, Sanders again was placed on injured reserve, missing the team’s final 15 regular-season games and the Wild-Card loss to the New York Jets. Reports indicate that Sanders has met with the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Buffalo Bills since being released by Indianapolis.

While his injury woes are what seem to stick in the minds of a lot of Colts fans right now — the safety has become the butt of several jokes in which he injures himself while doing something — Sanders’ aggressive playing style, his heart and his charitable representation of the Colts should not be forgotten.

It’s easy to forget that at one point in time Sanders arguably was the most beloved Colt among the team’s fans. The notion that a 5-foot-8 man could be such an intimidating presence on the football field hit in blue-collar Indianapolis.

Even after he missed 12 regular-season contests during the Colts’ Super Bowl-winning 2006 season, his presence in the playoffs played a pivotal role in bringing Indianapolis its first major professional sports championship since the ABA-era Pacers. His interception in Super Bowl XLI all but sealed that title.

That should be Bob Sanders’ legacy as a Colt.

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