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Colts adds free agent DT Tommie Harris

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ANDERSON, Ind. (AP)

The Indianapolis Colts have altered this year's game plan.

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After sticking to the traditional strategy of keeping their own players, the Colts have surprisingly emerged as a major player in free agency.

Since Monday, they've signed three former first-round draft picks — defensive lineman Jamaal Anderson, linebacker Ernie Sims and now defensive tackle Tommie Harris — along with their own first-round pick, left tackle Anthony Castonzo. They may not be done, either.

''You never say never,'' coach Jim Caldwell said. ''So many things change and you have to re-evaluate things, sometimes every day.''

The most recent move came Wednesday morning when Caldwell confirmed the signing of Harris. The former Chicago Bear went to three straight Pro Bowls from 2005-07, then endured three injury-plagued seasons that prevented him from being a disruptive force. He was released in February.

No, this is not Colts football by the book, but it could work.

Indy patiently waited for the high-profile, big-dollar free agents to sign their deals, then swooped in looking for bargains on the secondary market to start filling in its roster. For years, Indy has been trying to add depth on the defensive front and beef up a run defense that has struggled. The three newcomers could play a big role in finally achieving that goal.

''Obviously, the guys all have speed and power and they all happen to be on the defensive side of the ball, so we think we have a role for them,'' Caldwell said.

The reasons for choosing Indy vary.

Anderson, taken No. 8 overall in 2007, will get a fresh start after four sub-par seasons in Atlanta.

Sims, selected No. 9 by Detroit in 2006, wanted to play in the Tampa 2 system he thrived in during his first three years in Detroit. Sims had more than 100 tackles each of those seasons.

The Colts also are hoping a change of scenery will help change Harris' fortunes. He was taken No. 14 by Chicago in 2004 but had not arrived at training camp on Wednesday morning in Anderson, Ind.

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Post-lockout rules prevent any of the veteran free agents from practicing until Friday. Anderson and Sims can't wait to put on the pads.

''I want to get back to a team that utilizes my ability and talent. Other teams were going in different directions and I think I can step in here,'' Sims said Wednesday. ''I want to help this team win games.''

One advantage for the Colts is that all three are young enough to rejuvenate their careers. Anderson is 25, Sims is 26 and Harris is 28.

If Indy hits on all three, it could wind up with two veteran run-stuffers, an athletic, big-hitting outside linebacker and another big pass-rushing threat. Sims and Harris could both win starting jobs, too.

Yet the most intriguing prospect is Anderson, a 6-foot-6 defensive end who has trimmed down to 272 pounds after playing at 289 in Atlanta.

Drafted for his pass-rushing skills, Anderson actually proved better against the run. With the Colts, he could play inside or outside or both since he's not likely to supplant starting ends Dwight Freeney or Robert Mathis, both Pro Bowlers. What he could be, however, is No. 3 pass rusher, Indy has been seeking for years.

''Honestly, they haven't figured out my exact role yet,'' Anderson said. ''I guess we'll find out more when I get out there. One thing I'm here for is a fresh start. I've got a great group of veterans to learn from and a great group of coaches. That's why I'm here.''

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Castonzo also has plenty to learn.

Within hours of his arrival at camp Tuesday, Caldwell put Castonzo at left tackle -- where he will protect Manning's blindside. Castonzo was the only rookie who had a playbook to study over the summer, and the Boston College grad insists he'll be ready when Manning returns to the field. The four-time league MVP, whose new contract gave the Colts enough salary cap room to make all these acquisitions, is on the physically unable to perform list after having neck surgery in May.

Caldwell has not said when Manning will return.

But Castonzo has already figured out the transition from college to the NFL won't be easy.

''Really, it's a mix of getting the playbook down and ramping the speed up to the NFL level,'' he said. ''You know, ever since I got drafted by the Colts, I've been saying `I'm not going to let Dwight Freeney beat me on a spin move on the first play.' What does he do? He beats me on a spin move on the first play, so I've got a lot to learn.''

Tagged: Bears, Colts, Eagles, Dwight Freeney, Tommie Harris, Ernie Sims, Jamaal Anderson, Anthony Castonzo

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