From Comcast SportsNetINDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Dwight Freeney and Austin Collie were not expected to be back with the Indianapolis Colts next season.On Friday, the team made it official by issuing a statement saying it would not re-sign Freeney, the Colts' career sacks leader, or Collie, a key player in their second Super Bowl run since moving to Indy. Both will now become unrestricted free agents."Sadly, Dwight and Horseshoe parting ways," team owner Jim Irsay wrote on Twitter after the team confirmed the moves.It's the second straight year Indy's offseason has started with the departure of some familiar faces and fan favorites.Last year, the Colts released four-time MVP Peyton Manning in early March. A few days later, they cut running back Joseph Addai, linebacker Gary Brackett, safety Melvin Bullitt and tight end Dallas Clark. Right tackle Ryan Diem retired and a handful of players including receiver Pierre Garcon and center Jeff Saturday left in free agency. It looked like the Colts might also lose Pro Bowlers Robert Mathis and Reggie Wayne, too, but Indy re-signed both players and both again made the Pro Bowl team in 2012.Indy then drafted Andrew Luck and two tight ends and a receiver in the first three rounds, signed free agents Donnie Avery, Winston Justice and Samson Satele and found enough replacements to post an 11-5 mark and return to the playoffs.The moves left the Colts with little salary cap room last season. With the Colts projected to have more than 40 million available under the cap when free agency opens in a couple of weeks, the decisions this time had nothing to do with money.Freeney turns 33 next week, has seen his sacks totals decline each of the past three years, counted more than 17 million against the cap last season and never seemed comfortable after moving from a 4-3 defensive end, where he spent his first 10 NFL seasons, to a 3-4 outside linebacker.He was the 11th overall selection in the 2002 draft, the first with former coach Tony Dungy on board, and some critics considered the selection a reach. All Freeney did, though, was make 378 tackles, set Indy's career record with 107 sacks, forced 44 fumbles and combined with Mathis to form one of the most fearsome pass-rush tandems in the league. The forced fumbles were the most by any NFL player since 2002 and he's one of 13 players in Colts' history to participate in more than 100 wins."Few people have meant as much to the success of the Indianapolis Colts as Dwight Freeney," Irsay said in a statement. "He has been a dominant player, which is all the more impressive considering his size for his position, and he has won a lot of games for this franchise. Dwight was an artist, a joy to watch, and the dedication he put toward his craft was a rare quality. We will miss him, but look forward to his future induction into the Hall of Fame and Colts Ring of Honor."Collie's problem was injuries.Despite being a reliable slot receiver during his first two seasons, he wound up on season-ending injured reserve in September with a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee. And there was even more concern over a series of concussions that ended his 2011 season and plagued the early part of the 2012 season, too. Some even debated whether the Colts should cut Collie to keep him safe.He thanked the fans on his Twitter page."Sad day for me and my fam. It was a g8 4 yrs," Collie wrote. "Can't thnk u all enough 4 ur hospitality and support. Blessed to have been a part of this org."---------------------Charles Woodson is on the market.The Green Bay Packers released the 36-year-old defensive back Friday with two years left on his contract."We are grateful for all that Charles has given to the Green Bay Packers over the past seven years," general manager Ted Thompson said. "He has been an integral part of the Packers' success and our Super Bowl title in 2010 would not have been possible without his contributions. A once-in-a-generation talent as a player, he is also a great leader and ambassador for the organization off the field."The Packers clear about 10 million in cap space by releasing Woodson. Carl Poston, Woodson's agent, said the veteran wasn't done yet."The Packers told Charles they're going in a different direction," Poston said. "Charles told me he still wants to play -- for a Super Bowl contender."Woodson signed a five-year deal before the 2010 season that was worth as much as 55 million. He missed nine games during the 2012 regular season because of a broken right collarbone and played in two postseason games for the Packers in his seventh year with the franchise."We had a good run," Woodson wrote to ESPNWisconsin.com in a text message.Woodson was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2009 and the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1998. He spent the first eight years of his career with the Oakland Raiders, who drafted him out of Michigan with the No. 4 overall pick.He's the only player in NFL history with touchdowns off interceptions in six straight seasons, a feat he pulled off each year from 2006 to 2011, and leads the league with nine touchdowns off interceptions since 2006. He went to the Pro Bowl every year from 2008-11.Woodson was productive for the Packers, but they have some tough decisions to make this offseason to manage the salary cap. Woodson had a year left on his lucrative deal and linebacker A.J. Hawk is under contract next year for a team that probably wants to give long-term deals to receiver James Jones, linebacker Clay Matthews and defensive tackle B.J. Raji because each of the relatively young standouts could potentially be free agents following next season.Despite his age and recent injury, Woodson will likely be an in-demand free agent. He was injured last October, bounced back in time to defend two passes in the playoffs."Charles has been a stud in this league for 15 years, so whenever he's on the field with us, he's always a huge threat," Hawk said in January. "Not only is he a threat to make huge plays throughout the game, but quarterbacks, I think they know where he's at every single play. He seems to know what receivers are running before they do. And I think he has an intimidation factor as well."Woodson had a career-high nine interceptions in 2009 and picked off seven passes in 2011 and made one interception in seven games during last year's injury-shortened season.The 1997 Heisman Trophy winner led Michigan to the 1997 national championship and has donated more than 2 million to the University of Michigan Mott Children's Hospital and Women's Hospital, where he supports pediatric clinical research. With the Packers, he was a leader as one of the best players on the team and as a mentor to younger players.
CLEVELAND -- Down the stretch in Game 4, the Celtics were desperate for someone, anyone, who could slow down Kyrie Irving.
But short of that, Boston could have used an offensive closer, too. You know, someone like Isaiah Thomas.
GAME 4: CAVS 112, CELTICS 99
- Irving takes over in the second half, rallies Cavs past Celts
- Stars, studs and duds: Celtics didn't advantage of LeBron James' foul trouble
- Blakely: A missed opportunity for Celtics
The Celtics have relied on the two-time All-Star to carry much of the offensive burden this season, but he was almost always at his best in the fourth quarter.
A right hip injury knocked him out of this series after 1 1/2 games. Still, Boston managed to win Game 3 without him and, for large chunks of Tuesday night, seemed poised to beat the Cavs again on their home floor.
But as much as Game 4 was a reminder of just how special a talent Irving is (42 points, 21 in the third quarter when the game’s momentum swung in Cleveland's favor), it also provided a clue to the clueless who thought the Celtics were actually better without Isaiah Thomas.
It’s no secret that teams go to great lengths to try and use his 5-foot-9 stature against him. And as we have seen, the deeper we get into the postseason the more trouble he and the Celtics seem to encounter from a defensive standpoint.
But just as we praise Irving for being such a special talent, Thomas has shown that he, too, has offensive gifts that, throughout this season, have left many fans, media and defenders befuddled as to how “the little fella” keeps coming up with one big play, one big shot after another.
But as we have learned, he has been dealing with a sore right hip injury for several weeks. The pain and discomfort eventually became too much to bear and so the Celtics did the right thing and shut him down.
Without him, the C's are still a good team that on any given night can knock off anyone, even the defending champs.
But as Game 4 reminded us, they need Thomas in order to be their best.
When Irving torched Boston’s entire defense with jumpers, ankle-breaking crossovers, Euro-step lay-ups and free throws, the Celtics had no one to turn to who could maybe, just maybe, go back at Irving at the other end of the floor.
That's what Thomas does that makes him such a special, unique talent in this league.
He can score in a variety of ways, with the best in the NBA.
We saw that this past season, when he led all players in the Eastern Conference in scoring with a 28.9 points-per-game average.
Boston’s excellent ball movement and high assist numbers are certainly important to the team’s success. But to make a deep and meaningful playoff run, you need one or two guys who can just go get buckets regardless of what the opponent does defensively.
That’s not Avery Bradley.
That’s not Al Horford.
That’s not Kelly Olynyk.
You can search, poke and prod this roster all you want, and you'll come up empty when it comes to finding a player like that . . . other than Isaiah Thomas.
The fact the Celtics were able to avoid getting swept is a victory of sorts in itself. Boston’s coaching staff, as well as the front office, has repeatedly said that as talented as their team is, they aren’t on the same level of the defending champion Cavaliers.
And yet here we are four games into this series and the Celtics are basically a bad half of basketball away from being tied, 2-2.
It says a lot about their mental toughness, their ability to handle and navigate past adversity to give themselves a chance to be competitive against any team -- including the Cavs.
But their success this season has always been about the collective group, regardless of how many late-game shots Isaiah Thomas knocks down.
And while he has his shortcomings defensively, not having him available is going to hurt them in those late-game moments when they need a closer. It’s not a coincidence the Celtics were just 2-4 when he didn’t play during the regular season.
So as cool as it was for them to win Game 3 without Thomas, he’s still the straw that stirs the Celtics emotionally, bringing them to levels few think they're capable of reaching.
They were able to get by for one night without him, but remember this: It took Marcus Smart having an Isaiah Thomas-like game of 27 points and seven made 3’s, for them to win.
No one did anything remotely close to that Tuesday night.
They looked like the Isaiah Thomas-less Celtics, which is a look they don’t need this time of year.
Because that look is so not about winning.
Tom E. Curran and our Boston Sports Tonight crew debate whether the New England Patriots could have restructured Malcolm Butler's contract like they did Rob Gronkowski's.