Jeff Saturday was succinct, and disappointed.
"In a perfect world, I would have stayed here for good,'' he said Sunday afternoon.
A perfect world it's not.
Saturday, a mainstay on the the Indianapolis Colts' offensive line for 10 years, is eligible for free agency and will test the market when it opens Friday. He'd like to remain a Colt, but the team's offer, at least in its present form, is unacceptable to him.
So, come Friday, he'll shop around.
"I had expectations on what the offer would be,'' he said. "It just wasn't there.''The Colts haven't closed the door on Saturday returning, but the veteran center wants to see what's out there. That doesn't mean he's gone for good. He has loved his time here.
"I love the city, man. I love the fans here. I still have people coming up to me every day saying, 'Please stay.' That's very flattering.''
Still . . .
"I'm fully expecting to go to free agency and see what's going on out there,'' he said. "The Colts have made me an offer, but I owe it to my family to explore all the options before we make a final decision.''
Saturday, who will turn 34 before the start of the 2009 season, declined to address the parameters of the Colts' offer. In 2003, he signed a six-year, $19.2 million deal. It included a $5 million signing bonus and a base salary of $3 million in 2008.
Saturday has talked with other NFL players since the end of the season. He got the sense there is interest in a player who has started 154 games (including playoffs), worked with quarterback Peyton Manning since 2000 and been voted to three Pro Bowls.
"I would expect there to be a better offer (than Indy's),'' Saturday said. "That's the only reason I'm going to free agency. Otherwise I would have just taken the deal now.
"I fully expect there to be teams that step up and match the things I want and we'll have a future together.''
The Colts have given Saturday a deadline to accept their offer, which he wouldn't disclose. He's still trying to come to grips with a probable move.
"I feel I've given everything I could to the Colts,'' he said. "I've played as well as I could, and that's all you can ask.
"Now, they've got to decide what to do, and I do as well.''
While Saturday weighs his options, the Colts must brace for yet another major change on their offensive line. Since the team defeated the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI after the 2006 season, left tackle Tarik Glenn retired and right guard Jake Scott was allowed to sign with Tennessee as an unrestricted free agent. Left guard Ryan Lilja missed the '08 season -- he has had three procedures on his right knee in the past 12 months -- and his status for next season won't be known for a couple of months.
And now, Saturday.
Team president Bill Polian remains hopeful Saturday returns, but said the team is prepared for the alternative.
"The club that we have coming back, specifically on the offensive line absent Jeff, we feel very good about,'' he said Sunday during a break at the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Colts addressed the position during the 2008 draft, selecting three interior line prospects: Mike Pollak in the second round, Steve Justice in the sixth and Jamey Richard in the seventh. When knee and calf injuries forced Saturday to miss four games, Richard started.
"We had to play without Jeff for (four) games,'' Polian said, "and did well.''
Saturday paused as he considered the massive changes the offensive line has experienced over the past 24 months."It's an ever-evolving thing, man,'' he said.