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SUPER BOWL NOTES

Colts take time getting to Miami

January 30, 2007|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

MIAMI — The Indianapolis Colts arrived in Florida a full day after their Super Bowl XLI opponents, but this was one time they didn't mind coming in second.

"We've had three really emotional games, and our bye was fairly early in the season, so our guys have had a lot of time when they haven't had a weekend off at all," Coach Tony Dungy said at a Monday night news conference. "I wanted them to be able to spend some time with their families before we came down here. The families aren't coming until Thursday."

The goal, Dungy said, was to keep this week as normal as possible. The team practiced in Indianapolis on Monday morning.

"We wanted to do it that way," he said. "We think it's best for us to win. I don't think it will be a major problem. Our guys will get some time to see the city tonight, we'll have the media day, and then we'll be ready to start a normal week on Wednesday."

Asked if his team is primed for an emotional letdown after its dramatic 38-34 comeback victory over New England in the AFC championship game, Dungy said, "I don't really think so.... That's one of the reasons I gave the guys an extra day off, let them get away from football for a while so we can put that behind us and relax."

*

Back when they were colleagues on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- one as head coach, the other in charge of linebackers -- Dungy and Chicago Bears Coach Lovie Smith approached their jobs like bakers.

They counted "loafs."

That's what they called it when someone took a play off, or loafed it. Dungy, Smith and the rest of the staff would go through game tape looking for anyone going at anything less than full speed, then take appropriate action.

Every coach wants his players to hustle, of course, but the coaches in this year's Super Bowl seemed especially fixated on it.

"That was one of the things that we stressed, that we were going to have to out-hustle people," said Dungy, who in 1996 gave Smith his first job in the NFL. "We said that if you're not running full speed, it's a loaf. If you change speed, that means you weren't running full speed at some point during the play, so that's a loaf. If you're a supposedly fast guy, a defensive back or linebacker, and defensive linemen are passing you, that's a loaf. If you don't hit a guy when you could hit him, that's a loaf.

"And we had some disputes early on with Warren Sapp and some guys who didn't like our way of doing it, but pretty soon that became the way we played. Lovie's taken that to Chicago and I know those guys take a lot of pride in not getting loafs."

*

On Sunday night's flight from Chicago to Miami, Smith whiled away time by thumbing through the Colts media guide, specifically the 18 pages devoted to Peyton Manning.

Asked if he pointed out that chapter-sized section to the rest of the Bears, Smith said, "I don't think they need to read through all those 18 pages.... They know who Peyton Manning is. I'm one of his biggest fans also.... He's one of the all-time greats."

There are three pages for quarterback Rex Grossman in the Chicago media guide.

*

It was on the east coast of Florida, less than two hours north of Miami, that Chicago rookie Devin Hester first realized he was much faster than the typical kid.

Hester, the Bears' return specialist who set an NFL single-season record with six scoring runbacks, recognized the speed disparity "when I was in my fourth-grade year and in elementary school they had a fifth-grade field day."

Some of the fifth-graders challenged him -- unwisely as it turned out -- to a race. "My brother was bragging about me and said, 'My brother is in fourth grade and can beat you all,' " recalled Hester, who grew up in Riviera Beach, Fla. "They had a big argument about it, and they actually came and got me out of class. I ended up racing them and I beat all of them."

sam.farmer@latimes.com

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