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Monday, December 23, 2013
From receiver to special teams for DHB

By Mike Wells

INDIANAPOLIS -- It was one of those moments where you grab a tissue and wipe your glasses, blink several times to make sure your contacts haven't dried out or rub your eyes to make sure you aren't seeing things.

Darrius Heyward-Bey sprinted down the sideline in front of the Indianapolis Colts' bench, beat his man and tackled Kansas City Chiefs punt returner Dexter McCluster for a two-yard loss in the fourth quarter on Sunday. Heyward-Bey wasn't done. He raced down field and downed Pat McAfee's punt at Kansas City's 6-yard line a series later.

Darrius Heyward-Bey
Who is that player tackling Chiefs returner Dexter McCluster? Why, it's Colts WR Darrius Heyward-Bey.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2009 draft, on special teams?

Darrius Heyward-Bey, the player Colts general manager Ryan Grigson signed to be the team's No. 2 receiver this season, on special teams?

Yes and yes.

Heyward-Bey isn't sulking or turning into a locker room problem about playing on special teams. He's actually embracing the role.

"I'm taking it and running with it," Heyward-Bey said. "This is the first time that I've ever been in the playoffs, first time with double-digit wins. I put my ego to the side. I'm all about this team. I think we're a special team. I just want to go out there and help anyway I can."

Heyward-Bey doesn't have a history of playing on special teams. The Dec. 15 game against the Houston Texans was the first time he has ever played on special teams. He didn't do it in high school. He didn't do it at the University of Maryland. And he didn't do it during his time with the Oakland Raiders.

Heyward-Bey gets credit for taking advantage of the opportunity. But you have to be realistic, too. The Colts didn't sign him to a one-year, $2.5-million contract to chase down punt returners. They signed him to start opposite of Reggie Wayne at receiver.

Heyward-Bey has 29 catches -- none the past two games -- this season and he's been surpassed by LaVon Brazill, Da'Rick Rogers and Griff Whalen on the depth chart at receiver. Heyward-Bey's playing time at receiver the past two games has been reduced to short yardage situations where he's lined up on the outside and it's obvious the Colts are going to run the ball.

"It's always hard for a guy who believes in his ability," Heyward-Bey said about his reduced role at receiver. "You know the situation at hand and you respect what the coaches are doing and that they're trying to win football games. You just adjust. That's life. You adjust to what's going on and try to make the best of the opportunity."

Heyward-Bey's positive attitude about the situation hasn't gone unnoticed by those in the organization.

"His type of behavior is not real common these days," Grigson said. "Regardless of the circumstances, a former seventh overall pick could have gone the opposite direction and acted like a diva, but that's not Darrius. He has handled everything with such high character, selflessness and grace. Whether it's helping the younger receivers with their assignments, running plays on card team or making plays on special teams, he is doing whatever he can to help us win. He is a true example of what our head coach has preached from day one. All about the team, not self."