Colts Quarterback Andrew Luck respects Manning as a player and will show up ready to play on Sunday.
The Colts Report: Week 7
Peyton Manning returns to Indianapolis amidst a media circus.
After a disappointing loss to the Chargers on Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts are preparing for the toughest test so far this season. Not only will this be a challenge from a pure competitive football standpoint, but they are also mentally dealing with the return of a Colt's legend that the team discarded last season. While returning from a serious neck injury, Peyton Manning was passed over by the team in favor of drafting Andrew Luck, the top quarterback and No. 1 pick coming out of college. The story is well known, but the ending is yet to be written. Sunday night's game at Lucas Oil Stadium will be a huge part of the story and all eyes will be on Peyton, Andrew and Colts owner Jim Irsay.
Until recently it was widely speculated that the parting was somewhat mutual and that things were good between Peyton and the Colts organization. Now, there are rumblings that all is not well, and recent comments by Irsay are fueling the fire. In an interview with the USA Today, the owner admitted he was frustrated about only getting one Super Bowl ring with Manning. The media frenzy is underway and the consensus is that Irsay has publicly called out his ex-quarterback for not performing well in the post season. So far, Peyton is taking the high road and will not comment on any of this. The situation will build throughout the week and it will be the focus of all the pre-game hype. The bottom line: The Denver Broncos are the best team in the NFL so far this year, and their quarterback is Peyton Manning. The players and coaches will say it's simply another game, the Colts vs. the Broncos, but in many ways this is going to be Peyton vs. the Colts organization that left him behind.
"Must be a big game," joked Coach Pagano today at the very busy Colts Complex.
He went on to say this game is a, "great opportunity to get back on track and play a great football team. There are first ballot Hall of Famers on that squad. What Peyton has done for this organization, city, fans and football, in general, speaks for itself. Everyone will have mixed emotions, but at the end of the day, the twelfth man will be behind the team, and the horseshoe, like it always has."
Andrew Luck made his way through an extremely congested media pit to respond to questions about this much-hyped match up. His demeanor came off as calm with a hint of annoyance. He is trying to ignore publicly the pressure of this game, but the meaning and importance of this contest is surely weighing on him.
He shot back to a question about being compared to Peyton Manning with: " I never viewed it as replacing Peyton Manning; I just viewed it as an opportunity to play quarterback in the NFL. It just so happens that one of the greats of all time was here before me."
He did give some credit to Manning, "He was a great role model for guys my age. How to play the position, how to handle yourself on and off the field. I've always had the highest respect for him. My Dad backed Archie (Manning-Peyton's father) up my Dad's rookie year and we have always enjoyed watching all the Mannings play. I definitely hold him with the highest respect."
Reggie Wayne was not psyched to see "the circus" in the Colts' locker room.
If Luck appeared slightly annoyed with all the attention, his teammate Reggie Wayne was visibly irritated with all the hoopla. He strutted around the huddled masses surrounding his young quarterback and paced around counting down from ten to one, as if to say enough, get off of my guy.
Wayne barely made eye contact and kept his head low when talking with the press.
He was brief and voiced his displeasure with what he called, "a circus."
When asked about No. 18 returning to town, Wayne reluctantly stated: "It will be just like any other game, no different. I don't know what you want me to tell you. It's not like I haven't spoken to him since he left, we talk quite often. It's nothing different. You all are turning this into a circus man, the circus is coming to town. It's just another game."
One thing is for sure, the media hype will continue. Once this soap opera situation subsides, the game will be played. When it's all over Sunday night, this will be just another chapter in the story. Whether you miss Peyton, or are happy to have Luck, Indianapolis fans will need to pick a side when No. 18 struts out onto the field. You can bet he will be ready and certainly wants to make the fans proud and the organization sorry they let him go. As Coach Pagano closed out his interview he was asked if things being more emotional on Peyton's side is an advantage for the Colts.
"Time will tell," Pagano said. "Time will tell."
Yes it will.
The media "circus" at work Wednesday in the Colts' locker room.