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The scar is about a half-inch long and runs horizontally along
the crease just above quarterback Jim Harbaugh's chin. Every now
and again last week at the Indianapolis Colts' training camp in
Anderson, Ind., Harbaugh would aimlessly rub the area with his
fingers. The gash came courtesy of Pittsburgh Steelers
linebacker Jason Gildon and defensive end Kevin Henry, who
sandwiched Harbaugh during the Colts' 42-14 loss in the first
round of the 1996 playoffs. The blow pinched a nerve in
Harbaugh's neck, chipped one of his teeth and left him spitting
blood and in need of four stitches.

If Harbaugh was looking for a reminder of a painful season, he
had plenty of injuries from which to choose. He was sacked 36
times and suffered, among other things, a bruised right arm, a
broken nose, a scratched eye, a bruised left hand, a sprained
ankle and a sprained left knee. He was one of 19 Indianapolis
starters to miss at least one game because of injury, the
sprained knee sidelining him for two games. It was a rude
awakening for a team that one year earlier had come within a
Hail Mary pass of the Super Bowl.

So when Harbaugh rubs his chin these days, he feels his
motivation for the 1997 season. Captain Comeback and his mates
are trading in their glass slipper for a steel-toed work boot.
"I hope our underdog era is finished, because when people call
us an underdog or a Cinderella, that tells me they still think
we're really not that good," says free safety Jason Belser, who
has been with the club since he entered the league in '92. "I
never liked that role. It's defeatist, but I went along with it
because it gave us a let's-take-on-the-world attitude. Now it
should be the rest of the teams that get a queasy feeling when
they have to play us."

Indianapolis, 9-7 in each of the last two seasons, has to like
its chances to contend in the AFC East, a division that has
produced five of the last seven AFC participants in the Super
Bowl. The Buffalo Bills are beginning the post-Jim Kelly era,
the New England Patriots have a new coach in Pete Carroll, and
the Miami Dolphins have been hit with the injury bug early in
camp, having already lost their first-round draft choice,
wideout Yatil Green, and special teams standouts Kirby Dar Dar
and Larry Izzo, probably for the season. Because injuries forced
them to start so many players last year (41), the Colts reported
to camp a more mature and, at some positions, deeper team.

Belser and linebackers Quentin Coryatt and Tony Bennett were
among a group of players who met last Thursday night to discuss
filling the leadership void created by the free-agent defections
of several defensive veterans, including cornerback Ray Buchanan
and tackle Tony Siragusa. The next day, in its first blocking
drill, the rebuilt line flipped a steel seven-man sled. Running
back Marshall Faulk ran without pain in his right big toe for
the first time since early last season.

"We beat the world champion 49ers in 1995, and we beat the world
champion Cowboys in 1996," says vice president and director of
football operations Bill Tobin. "We play the Packers in the
regular season this year, and we're expecting the same results."

Tobin, one of the architects of the 1986 Super Bowl champion
Chicago Bears, has a no-nonsense attitude flowing from the front
office on down. Although the team is looking for more line help
to protect Harbaugh, Indianapolis has not given in to the
demands of its first-round draft choice, Tarik Glenn, a 6'5",
335-pound left tackle from Cal. Glenn is seeking a four-year
deal worth in the neighborhood of $1.1 million a year, while the
Colts are asking him to commit to five years at about the same
rate. Tobin also has locked horns with fourth-year fullback
Roosevelt Potts, who, after being suspended all last season for
violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy, wants out of

Tobin was more than a little perturbed when injured linebacker
Trev Alberts wasn't in camp last Friday. Three days later
Alberts said from his home in Lincoln, Neb., that he was getting
a second opinion on a damaged right shoulder that the Colts say
needs surgery. Nevertheless, Tobin was fining him $5,000 a day
and said on Monday through a spokesman, "We're not going to
elaborate on the Trev Alberts situation. He was told to be here
and he's not here, and he's being fined accordingly."

Alberts, a former first-round pick who has made only seven
starts in his three seasons, in part because of chronic elbow
and shoulder problems, told the team in January that he wanted
to retire. On Monday, Alberts said that from the time he
mentioned retirement, he told team officials of his concerns
about the shoulder. "They just would not believe me," he said.
"Their position was that I was lying to them." Management
stipulated that if Alberts did retire, he had to return about
one quarter of the $3.275 million signing bonus he received when
he accepted a six-year, $8.15 million deal in July '94. Alberts
was willing to return less, though he won't say how much. When
negotiations stalled, Alberts--who according to Harbaugh had
"begged not to play"--prepared for camp.

Alberts passed a physical on July 5, but after two light-contact
practices he complained about soreness in the shoulder, which he
first injured and then had surgery on while at Nebraska. In the
surgical procedure Dr. Pat Clare wrapped a transplanted tendon
around the shoulder joint to stabilize it. The tendon is no
longer effective, Alberts says. A Colts doctor recommended
reconstructive surgery and even had it scheduled for Monday, but
meanwhile the club cleared Alberts to get other opinions, with
the understanding he be back in camp by last Friday. "At this
point I don't know what I'm going to do," Alberts said on Monday.

Alberts's situation drew a spark of anger out of Indianapolis's
usually upbeat quarterback. "You get tired of looking at the
same guys on the sidelines collecting paychecks," Harbaugh said.
"At some point we've got to find the guys who want to play.
Those are the guys who are going to be there on Sunday."

At week's end no Colt had challenged the comments publicly,
which brought to light Harbaugh's own transformation. Once the
target of coach Mike Ditka's outbursts while with the Chicago
Bears and then a just-happy-to-be-here guy during Indianapolis's
drive to the 1995 AFC Championship Game, Harbaugh now exhibits
the confidence and leadership one would expect from a
quarterback who was a first-round draft choice.

"I'm not trying to kick a guy when he's down," Harbaugh said as
he sat in the training camp cafeteria last Friday. "But this is
a seriously screwed-up situation with Trev. And I'd say the same
thing to [tackle] Troy Auzenne, who is also hurt. [Auzenne, who
missed four games last year with a knee injury, had off-season
knee surgery and hasn't been cleared to practice.] It just gets
to the point where you have to say, 'Troy, are you going to play
or stand there on the sidelines? Make up your mind. Because you
can't just sit and take the money anymore.'"

Harbaugh paused and, leaning back in his chair, gave the scar on
his chin a good rub. "Who knows?" he said. "Maybe the little guy
inside my head who is supposed to stop me from saying all this
stuff is taking a coffee break. I don't know if I have the right
to say all of this. I'm just a quarterback--a normal, average

Trying to get his team to the next level.

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOHN BIEVER The Colts don't believe it's a stretch to say they have a shot at winning their first AFC East title since '87. [Indianapolis Colts players stretching on grass]

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOHN BIEVER No longer Mr. Nice Guy, Harbaugh has ripped players who he believes haven't shown enough heart. [Jim Harbaugh throwing football]


In the 1990s the Colts have had the first overall pick in the
NFL draft twice and have had three other top five choices.
During that period, their first-round selections have produced
mixed results. Here's a look at how the team's picks have fared.

Year Pick Player Position Comment

1990 1 Jeff George QB The Colts won 21 games
in his four seasons
before he wore out his
welcome and was shipped
to Atlanta

1992 1 Steve Emtman DT Major injuries to both
knees limited him to a
total of 14 games in his
first two years; was then
waived after the '94 season

1992 2 Quentin Coryatt LB Has displayed Pro Bowl
potential when healthy,
but last season missed
nine games; being counted
on for leadership role in

1993 16 Sean Dawkins WR Has caught more than 50
passes in each of past
three seasons, but TD
reception total has
dropped from five to
three to one

1994 2 Marshall Faulk RB Went to Pro Bowl first
two years, but with
sprained right big toe in
'96 rushed for more than
70 yards only twice

1994 5 Trev Alberts LB Injured more often than
healthy early on and has
started only seven games
in three years; pondering
retirement because of
injured right shoulder

1995 15 Ellis Johnson DL Started two games as a
rookie but was sidelined
for four games last
season by a pair of

1996 19 Marvin Harrison WR Finished third in the
league among rookies in
receptions, with 64, and
gave the Colts the deep
threat they sorely lacked