Colts looked past Antonio Morrison's past problems because he's a 'dog'

The Colts love linebacker Antonio Morrison's toughness and passion for the game. Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS -- Acquiring players with a checkered past off the field has been a touchy subject lately for the Indianapolis Colts.

But University of Florida linebacker Antonio Morrison, who had some off-the-field issues, was still on board when the Colts picked in the fourth round of last weekend’s draft. The Colts want players who have some nastiness, toughness and, well, some dog in them.

Morrison fits all those traits.

He fits those traits so well on the football field that the Colts were willing to look past his two arrests, including one for barking at a dog, almost three years ago.

"You’re talking about a young kid," Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said. "I hope you guys don’t dig too much on me when I was 18 (years old), but I’ll tell you right now, it was silly what he did. He was so forthright. He doesn’t hold back when he talks to you. What you see is what you get. He is a tough hombre, and he plays that way. He plays lights-out. We’ve been talking mindset around here, and that guy has got that mindset. He adds another piece to that defense with guys that play like that."

All it took for the Colts to become enamored with Morrison -- outside of back-to-back seasons of at least 100 tackles -- was the toughness he showed when he ran the 40-yard dash during his Pro Day at Florida four days after having a catheter taken out of his chest.

Doctors urged him not to take part, but Morrison didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to run in front of NFL teams, especially after he missed the annual scouting combine because of a staph infection that had him on antibiotics for six weeks.

Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano were not only impressed with Morrison’s toughness through the situation, it also showed them that he’s committed to do whatever it takes to be successful.

"'I don’t care (about the 40 time); just put the tape on,'" Pagano recalls Morrison saying at his Pro Day. "'And whoever takes me is going to get a great football player.' And he used some other adjectives that I won’t use in this room. The guy is a great competitor. You just put the tape on, and after a couple plays, it’s like, wow."

Morrison suffered multiple torn ligaments, including his ACL, in his knee during his junior season. The injury was supposed to keep him out at least 10 months, but he had a quick recovery. Morrison returned in time to play in 14 games during his senior season, when he had 103 tackles and 2.5 sacks.

"I’m tough and I’m physical," Morrison said. "I love the contact part of the game. That’s why I play the game. I just love hitting people. I love contact and I just love the bond you build with people for a common goal, and that’s winning."

Morrison will compete with Sio Moore, Nate Irving and Josh McNary for playing time at inside linebacker.

As notable as it was for Morrison to overcome the torn ACL, staph infection and having a catheter removed just before his Pro Day, it can’t be overlooked that the linebacker was arrested twice while at Florida. The Colts released linebacker Jonathan Newsome in February after he was arrested for marijuana possession.

Morrison was arrested in June 2013 for battery after he punched a nightclub bouncer after he was not given a discounted rate for admission. Then he was arrested a month later for allegedly barking at a police dog and resisting arrest.

"That’s in the past," Morrison said. "I was 18 years old when all those things happened. I’m 21 right now. All that stuff is behind me. I wasn’t worried about anything. What’s done is done. I’m just looking ahead."

The Colts think so lightly of Morrison’s arrest over barking at the dog, that they even had some light-hearted fun about the situation.

"What do we look for?" Pagano turned to his right to ask Grigson at the conclusion of the draft.

Grigson took too long to answer so the coach answered it for him.

"Dogs," Pagano said.

That prompted Grigson to jokingly say, "I got him a real one."