Saturday makes right decision, tough phone call

Jeff Saturday (left, 63) worked with Peyton Manning as the Colts' center for more than a decade. Having to tell Manning that he chose the Packers over his Broncos was difficult. Raymond T. Rivard photograph

When Jeff Saturday made his decision to join the Green Bay Packers, the first person he reached out to was his longtime Indianapolis Colts teammate and friend, Peyton Manning.

“Peyton is a close friend and I loved playing with him,” Saturday told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I loved the time we spent together. It was the most difficult call I’ve ever made. I told him before anyone else that I was going to Green Bay.”

Manning had pushed hard to get Saturday signed on to play in Denver with his new team, the Broncos.

But Saturday was rightfully looking out for himself. The fit, he said, in Denver just wasn’t right. He admitted that he felt like he would be second fiddle in the Mile High City and realized that he was highly appreciated and sought after by the Packers’ brass.

“I told him [Manning] I don’t think the Broncos wanted me as much as he did. They’ve got things going on that they’re happy with and are moving forward with and I didn’t think it was an exact fit. I always felt like in Green Bay I was their very first choice.”

And right he is. With the loss of starter Scott Wells to the St. Louis Rams, Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy faced a huge hole right in the middle of their offensive line. Signing a player like Saturday was crucial to the team. Thompson and McCarthy knew that drafting and developing for such an important position wasn’t the right way to go. They needed to fill the position with someone who had experience … and they needed to fill it immediately. Saturday was the perfect choice.

It was a win-win for the Packers and for Saturday. Not only do the Packers get a player with 13 years of experience, a perennial all-pro and an individual who will lead by example on the field and in the locker room, but Saturday gets to play for a team where he’s wanted; a team that continues to be on the rise.

Not only that, but the Packers got him signed to a two-year deal that will pay him adequately, but far less than the inflated salary Wells accepted in St. Louis. Thompson hit a home run on this one. He was smart in letting Wells move on and he gets an equal, if not better player while having the luxury of still drafting for the future. If the Packers can get two years out of Saturday, it could turn out to be one of Thompson’s best deals ever.

“They have a great offensive line and some really good, young players,” Saturday said. “They won 15 games last year; it’s not like I have to add a lot to it. But I think I can offer leadership, and being a veteran I can help the offensive line blossom into players they want to be.”

Amen, Jeff, Amen.

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