The Indianapolis Colts were not shy about showing the door to a long list of aging veterans this offseason, but don't call it a rebuilding year.
Coach Chuck Pagano dismissed the "R" word on Saturday.
"I got asked the question many times about (rebuilding) and all I told them was that it is next man up. We know we've lost some great players and there has been turnover here -- huge change," Pagano told reporters in comments released by the team. "The culture and the dynamics are totally different, so we've just raised the bar. The expectations are way up here. We said, 'You wouldn't be sitting in this room if someone didn't see something in you. So it is next man up. Get yourself ready to go, learn what you are supposed to do and somebody in here is going to be the next Dallas Clark and somebody is going to be the next Joseph (Addai). Someone will take their place; it happens all of the time.'"
Said Pagano: "Rebuilding though, we are not talking about rebuilding. Ever."
One familiar face has bought in. Defensive end Dwight Freeney knows he might be in for a rough ride, but the 32-year-old took a playful swat at NBA star LeBron James' highly publicized departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers to join the talent-heavy Miami Heat.
"I'm kind of old school when it comes to that thought," Freeney told Sirius XM Radio, via ProFootballTalk.com. "I'm not LeBron trying to leave the team. I'm more like the era of Magic (Johnson) and Lawrence Taylor, who stayed with that same team for their entire careers -- win, lose, or draw. They were married to the city they were drafted in. You go through the tough times and great times with them, and that's it. That's what I'm looking forward to."
Here's the point in the story where we tell you Freeney is set to earn $14.035 million in 2012, but money aside, Freeney is speaking a rare language here.
Maybe the team has a ways to go, but according to Pagano and his unusually loyal defensive end, these Colts don't rebuild. They reload.