Colts hoping Marvin Harrison's return gives offense a boost Print
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Thursday, 10 January 2008 23:58
NFL Headline News

 INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -Indianapolis learned how to cope without Marvin Harrison.
Now the Colts need to readjust to getting him back.
After missing 10 straight games because of a left knee injury, Harrison is expected to make his return Sunday in an AFC divisional playoff game against San Diego. If all goes well, Harrison's presence should give the Colts' already potent offense a boost as Indy tries to defend its Super Bowl title.
``With Marvin we can do a lot more things because he understands things better,'' running back Joseph Addai said Thursday. ``With the young guys we had to simplify some things, which is good, but the defense will have to respect him because of what he's done in the past.''
With Harrison, the Colts (13-3) could become more dangerous in the playoffs.
Peyton Manning and Harrison have been the foundation for one of the league's highest-scoring and dependable units over the last decade. Each has been selected to eight Pro Bowls and together they have set NFL records for the most completions (898), yards (12,155) and touchdowns (107) by a quarterback-receiver tandem.
Without Harrison, however, the Colts didn't drop off much. They still scored 450 points, won a fifth straight AFC South title and got career-best seasons from two-time Pro Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne and tight end Dallas Clark.
But during his absence, the Colts also lost back-to-back games to San Diego and New England - losses many believe might not have occurred if Harrison played. So getting him back in uniform could be a real boon for Indy.
``He's a guy that knows how to play the game and the stage won't be too big for him,'' coach Tony Dungy said. ``That part we're not really concerned about. I think he's going to help us and help us be more explosive.''
But plugging injured players into the lineup can be tricky.
Manning has spent the last three months looking for other receivers. He's relied on improvised game plans, which included new formations and moving his old standbys around more often.
In fact, Clark still attributes his big playoff performances last year to shaking off some of the rust in the regular-season finale after he missed four straight games with a knee injury.
Harrison hasn't been as fortunate. Since bruising his left knee after Denver's D.J. Williams rolled into his leg on Sept. 30, his practice time has been sporadic and his playing time nonexistent - creating questions about how crisp the timing between Manning and Harrison might be.
Harrison did practice Wednesday and Thursday.
``No, I can't say he'll play for sure,'' Dungy said. ``But he practiced well yesterday and we set up sort of a pitch-count for him and he exceeded that because he wanted to. So I think he feels good and we'll see Sunday.''
Of course, Dungy has been through this before, too.
Two weeks ago, Harrison appeared ready to go against Tennessee. Instead, the Colts had him work out in pregame warmups then held him out of the game.
The good news is that Harrison, a 12-year veteran, and Manning, a 10-year veteran, have been around long enough to know each other's tendencies and expectations.
The danger, of course, is that they could be rusty Sunday against a San Diego defense that has forced a league-high 48 turnovers and still ranks as one of the best in the league, leaving Manning in a new situation.
``We've never really crossed this bridge before,'' Manning said. ``He's been an unbelievably durable guy during his whole career. I think the most time we've ever not been together was my rookie year when he missed the last four games. It's really the first time it's ever happened, so we'll see, I guess. I can't give you a definitive answer.''
Just having Harrison on the field, though, would help.
San Diego (12-5) may have to decide who will face extra defenders, the well-established Harrison or Wayne, the emerging star.
``Defenses don't have to double-team you over there, so it does change your offense some,'' Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday said. ``I don't know that it changed us, but I think it changed a lot of the defenses we saw.''
If Harrison does play Sunday, the Chargers will be hard-pressed to make that choice, knowing there could be consequences either way in a winner-takes-all game.
``We don't expect 88 to be as effective as he's accustomed to being, you know, with his knee bothering him, because we're going to hit him,'' Chargers safety Clinton Hart said. ``If he catches it, we're going to hit him. So we think he may be a decoy, if he's out there.''

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