The Colts decided early in the week that they didn't want running backs Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai to be forced to play in the final preseason game this weekend against the Bengals. But they had a problem. That meant that they only had two running backs available for action -- Kory Chapman and Tony Hollings. So they brought in former Texan Jonathan Wells for a look and to add some depth.
Unfortunately for wide receiver and returns specialist Dan Sheldon, he was the player released to make room for Wells on the roster. The move was a surprise as Sheldon had shown a feisty attitude as a receiver, catching four passes and fighting for yardage after the catch against the Seahawks. He also showed off some nifty moves and his speed and acceleration during a 36-yard punt return.
Sheldon, who was on the Cardinals practice squad as a rookie last year, came
to Indianapolis knowing that he would be fighting for a roster spot on one of
the most talented teams in the NFL. With Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Brandon Stokley and other talented receivers on the depth chart, and a large field of
candidates brought in to compete for open spots at the returns specialist
positions, Sheldon knew he would have an uphill battle to land a spot on the
53-man roster in Indy. But he was confident that he could land one of those jobs.
"They're only going to keep one punt-returner, which I knew from the beginning," Sheldon told ColtPower.
But the strong, athletic football player, who was called "Seabiscuit" by his teammates in college, certainly made an impression during the preseason, and watched as the Colts gradually eliminated other candidates while remained in the thick of the things.
"I thought things were going well as far as the returns specialist competition," he said. "I was feeling really comfortable and confident back there returning. They told me they wished I could have gotten some more opportunities back there, and that would have been nice if I could have gotten some more looks."
At this point, the frontrunner for the kickoff returns specialist position appears to be seventh-round pick T.J. Rushing, who has missed the last two games with a groin injury. Veteran Terrence Wilkins helped his cause with an impressive showing against the Saints last weekend. But New Orleans' coverage teams are a bit suspect, so the Colts will undoubtedly want to see if Wilkins can repeat his performance against the Bengals this week. They face a tough decision with Wilkins due to his tenure in the league. If he makes the opening day roster as a six-year veteran, the Colts have to pay him for all 16 regular season games regardless of his results during the season.
"All hope is not lost yet, because a lot can still happen in this week's game," Sheldon said. "I don't think it was a clear-cut winning of the job yet (by Wilkins), I think it just came down to a decision they had to make so they could make room for the running back. It's a situation that could still be reversed after this weekend, you never know."
According to Sheldon, the Colts have even left open the possibility of adding him to their practice squad even if he doesn't get pulled back onto the team's 53-man roster after this weekend.
"I'm not sure what would have to happen for that to work out, but they did bring that up and I hope that's still becomes an option, "he said. I definitely want to have a job come Monday whether it's on a roster or a practice squad."
If he doesn't get an opportunity to return to the Colts, Sheldon believes his strong performance against the Seahawks will help him in getting a chance with another NFL team.
"It was an important game for me. It definitely helped being on a nationally televised game. It makes it easier for coaches and scouts to see you," he said. "That was the first time I caught a punt this season, and I showed I have the ability to make some big plays. I was hoping to show them (the Colts) how comfortable I was in that spot, and they told me when they released me that all that I was trying to accomplish, I did well.
"They've seen what I can do, and if it comes down to it, I hope they feel confident that they can bring me back and that I can do the job."
While Sheldon hopes to be back with the Colts next week, ultimately he has one goal.
"Most importantly, I just want to play football --wherever that may be," he said. "I've enjoyed every minute I've been with the Colts. I've loved being part of this team. It would be great if it would work out so I can continue to work with this coaching staff and the people on this team. But most importantly I want to play football and show people what I can do, wherever that may be.
"I'm going to stay positive, and be ready. Hopefully that opportunity will come."