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Pro Bowl switch gives Saturday one last snap with Manning

Jan. 28, 2013
 

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Green Bay Packers center Jeff Saturday acknowledges the crowd after snapping the ball to Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning at Sunday's Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu. / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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Donning his NFC blue uniform for the first and only time, Jeff Saturday trotted out during the first quarter of Sunday's Pro Bowl and into the huddle of the AFC offense.

When it broke, the six-time Pro Bowl center went to the line and snapped one last football to his close friend and former Indianapolis Colts teammate, Peyton Manning.

From Saturday's rookie year in 1999 until Manning's neck injury a year ago, the battery of Manning and Saturday was the cornerstone of the Colts' offense.

The two players started 177 games together and helped guide the franchise to 138 wins over 12 seasons with nine consecutive NFL playoff berths, two Super Bowl appearances and NFL title in 2006.

The 37-year-old Saturday, who spent the 2012 season with the Green Bay Packers, told The Fan 1070 in Indianapolis on Friday he intended to retire after the Pro Bowl.

"I tell you after doing it that long with him," Saturday told NBC's Doug Flutie after the play, "we figured it's our last run together, we might as well get one more. That's something special I'll always remember."

The two were separated last year when Manning was lost for the season with a neck injury and the Colts went into rebuilding mode after a 2-14 season.

During the offseason, the Colts cut Manning, who signed with Denver, and allowed Saturday to ink a two-year, $7.75 million deal with the Packers.

The 36-year-old Manning returned to form with the Broncos behind 4,659 passing yards, 37 touchdowns and led them to the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.

Meanwhile, Saturday began to show his age in Green Bay. He was benched with two games left in the regular season and played only two more snaps over the next four contests.

An unlikely selection to the Pro Bowl given his demotion, Saturday hinted throughout the final month of the season it likely would be his final game, and after making his retirement official after 202 career starts on Friday, the heartfelt final snap to his long-time colleague went a long way for Saturday.

"You know what man, this is what it's all about. I'll remember this one," Saturday said. "It's been a pleasure. We've had a great time. We had a great run together. I've enjoyed playing with him. He's a class act all the way across the board. I've been very appreciative of the time I got to spend with him in Indy and I know he'll do great things in Denver."

The Packers had four players selected to the Pro Bowl with quarterback Aaron Rodgers, linebacker Clay Matthews and right guard Josh Sitton. Saturday and Sitton were the only ones to play in the game.

whodkiew@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.

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