TERRE HAUTE, Ind. &
Dominic Rhodes waited six years to become a starting running back in the NFL.
Then the Indianapolis Colts drafted Joseph Addai, won the Super Bowl and Rhodes followed the money to Oakland.
Turns out, life isn't always better on the West Coast. Now, after one forgettable season with the Raiders, Rhodes has returned to his old team with a new number, different perspective and renewed passion to win.
"I'm so excited to be back and I'm motivated to bring a championship back," he said. "I think I can bring that back to this team. You know, this is not a very loud team, but I'm a loud guy, so I think that will help."
Rhodes has always managed to fit in with the Colts.
In 2001, the scrappy, unknown runner from Midwestern State in Texas not only won an improbable roster spot but also set the NFL record for yards rushing by an undrafted rookie (1,104). Five years later, he and Addai were locking up playoff victories and steamrolling through the Miami rain to give the Colts a Super Bowl title.
But having a ring and playing the complementary role to a future Pro Bowler didn't satisfy Rhodes, who still dreamed of starting.
Oakland gave him that chance last year.
"The only regret I have is not giving the thought process more time," Rhodes said. "When I left, for some reason, I was kind of tired of being here. I kind of took it (winning) for granted."
Rhodes opened his season with the Raiders facing a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, which immediately put him behind. the time he was back on the field, Rhodes had fallen to third on the Raiders' depth chart and was playing on a team looking toward the future.
The result: two starts, 75 carries, 302 yards, one touchdown and a shattered dream.
Worse yet were the losses &
Oakland finished 4-12, Rhodes' first losing season since his rookie year when the Colts went 6-10.
"It was different because I was used to winning the division, being in the playoffs every year and going into every game expected to win," he said. "There, it was like if you won, you got up on a table and acted like you won the Super Bowl."
Rhodes' plan took another detour in April. The Raiders drafted Darren McFadden with the No. 4 overall pick, adding another body to an already crowded backfield. Two days later, Rhodes was released and he began lobbying publicly for a return to the Colts.
It didn't take coach Tony Dungy long to embrace the idea of reuniting his Super Bowl backfield.
"Dominic was always a guy who played with high energy," Dungy said. "I think he is glad to be here because he understands how we function."
But the comeback has come with some adjustments.
His familiar jersey number, 33, is being worn by Melvin Bullitt, a second-year defensive back whose father wore the number in college. Bullitt has repeatedly refused Rhodes' offers to buy back the number, and Rhodes finally seems content to stick his new number, 38, for now.
More important is that Addai has a firm hold on the starting job after making his first Pro Bowl last season, meaning that after all those years backing up Edgerrin James, Rhodes is right back where he started &
"I respect what he (Addai) has done," Rhodes said. "Joe tried to learn everything he could and he put it all on the field. He did a good job with that. I'm just excited to get a chance to help back him up."
It's not as much a concession as it is an acknowledgment of the new reality for Rhodes, who turns 30 in January.
The tribulations have also changed Rhodes.
Two legal run-ins &
a 2002 arrest for domestic battery in which he avoided prosecution by agreeing to undergo counseling, and a 2007 conviction for reckless driving &
prodded Rhodes to rein in his partying past.
"I'm still me, but I don't do the same things I was doing," he said.
"If I had a drink back in the day, I would drive home. I don't do those things anymore. I don't go to clubs any more."
And he has new goals.
The numbers and promise of a starting job in the NFL are no longer the sole motivating factors in Rhodes' career.
After losing last season, Rhodes would rather win games and help the Colts get back to the Super Bowl.
"I kept thinking 'If I was in Indy, I'd be playing a lot and winning,'" he said. "I know they brought me back here for a reason and that was to bring back the glory &
and that glory is the Super Bowl."
RB Rhodes ready for return to winning with Colts
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. &