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Dominic Rhodes rejoins Colts backfield

Posted: May 7, 2008
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In one quick move, 14 months of constant frustration gave way to sweet anticipation for Dominic Rhodes.

The veteran free agent running back agreed to a one-year contract with the Indianapolis Colts on today worth about $650,000, reuniting him with the team that gave him his first NFL break, and one he helped lead to a Super Bowl championship.

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“I can’t even share with you the excitement I’m feeling right now,’’ Rhodes said in a telephone interview from Arizona.

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From the moment he was released by the Oakland Raiders last month, he said, “I knew there was a possibility to come back (to Indy).’’

The Colts had no comment on their latest addition. The team generally does not discuss a player move until it’s official, and Rhodes, 29, still must pass his physical.

That left it to Rhodes to do the talking, and he readily obliged. He said he understood that Joseph Addai is the central figure in the Colts’ ground game, and he’s looking forward to challenging Kenton Keith and rookie Mike Hart for the backup role.

“There’s no guarantees, I know that,” Rhodes said. “But you know I’m not short on confidence.

“I know this is Joe’s team … but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to go out there and compete and try to get as many carries as I can and push him to be a great starter.”

Rhodes paused, then rolled on.

“I don’t want to put the cart before he horse,” he said with a laugh, “but I kind of think I’m the missing ingredient, man.’’

The last time Rhodes played for the Colts was Feb. 4, 2007, in Miami. It was Super Bowl XLI, and he rushed for a game-high 113 yards and one touchdown in Indy’s 29-17 victory over the Chicago Bears. Rhodes was given strong consideration for MVP honors, which went to quarterback Peyton Manning.

It was the culmination of a strong season. Rhodes started all 16 regular-season games, allowing Addai to ease into a platoon role, and then came off the bench in the playoffs and kept delivering. He was instrumental in the comeback victory against New England in the AFC Championship Game before starring in the Super Bowl.

During the subsequent offseason, the Colts allowed Rhodes to hit the free agent market, and he signed a two-year, $7.5 million contract with Oakland that included a $1 million signing bonus.

The Colts then signed Keith to back up Addai, and the former Canadian Football League standout rushed for 533 yards and three touchdowns. But Keith was erratic and dropped some key passes, and generally wasn’t the all-around threat Rhodes had been.

Rhodes, meanwhile, dealt with the most frustrating season of his career.

A reckless driving conviction in Indiana in February 2007 caused him to miss his first four games in Oakland due to an NFL-imposed suspension for violating its substance abuse policy. He played sparingly after returning to the field, rushing only 19 times for 65 yards in his first eight appearances. But given the chance with starts in Oakland’s final two games, Rhodes rushed for 115 and 122 yards.

“I thought I was going to be the man in Oakland, but after I had the four games (suspension), everything kind of went south,’’ he said.

The suspension also means that one more such incident could lead to a one-year suspension, but Rhodes said he isn’t concerned.

“I’m at the stage that I can’t do anything (wrong),’’ he said, “but nothing’s going to happen.’’

Rather, he’s looking forward to a fresh start with the team that signed him as an undrafted rookie in 2001. He already has talked with Addai and Manning.

“(The Colts) are going to open up that new stadium and you know they’re going to be in the playoffs again and have a chance to go to the Super Bowl,’’ Rhodes said. “Who wouldn’t be excited about that?’’

Call Star reporter Mike Chappell at (317) 444-6830.

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Dominic Rhodes, shown during the Colts-Bears Super Bowl game on Feb. 4, 2007, in Miami, had a disappointing first season with the Oakland Raiders and was released after gaining only 302 yards. - ROBERT SCHEER / The Star

RELATED INFORMATION

Meet Dominic Rhodes (again)

>> Vitals: Running back; 5-9, 203 pounds; 29 years old; signed with the Colts in 2001 as an undrafted free agent out of Midwestern State in Texas.

>> Career numbers: 81 games in six seasons (five with Indy, one with Oakland); 625 carries for 2,576 yards (4.1 avg.); 21 TDs (including one receiving). Missed 2002 season with knee injury.

>> Colts highlights: Ran for 1,104 yards (4.7 avg.) in 2001 filling in for injured Edgerrin James, a league record for an undrafted rookie. Started all 16 regular-season games in 2006 in a platoon role with Joseph Addai, then came off the bench in the playoffs with great effectiveness, gaining 306 yards in four games (4.9 avg.), including 113 in the Super Bowl victory against the Bears.

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