Mocking the Colts: Manning Status Updates and Roster Shuffle

This has been a very busy Monday in the Colts news world. Following Peyton Manning’s activation from the physically unable to perform list his access to local media increased significantly. A lot can be taken away from Manning’s public comments that have a big impact on his chances to take the field in Houston.

One of the most important comments Manning made was reported by Phil B. Wilson of IndyStar.com. Manning has made it clear the the Colts front office has agreed to allow him and his doctors make the final decision on whether or not he starts and plays in Week 1 of the regular season. This statement is important because it is generally accepted that it is extremely unlikely that Manning would voluntarily choose to sit out. As Tony Dungy put it, “he will be under center… unless he is dead.”

He also took the time to respond to critics who believe that he will play even if he is unable to perform at a high level in order to sustain his current streak of consecutive games started. Tom James of CBSSports.com Rapid Reports shared a quote from Manning:

Absolutely not, no. Like I said the other night, I have to be able to competitively play. I have too much respect for football. Could I go out there and take the opening snap or take a series? Yes, I could do that. Absolutely. But I’ve got to be able to compete and to help my team win.

He continued to say:

I’d like to just be to able to use this week and have more of a status report before the beginning of next week and then just kind of go from there.

In any case, the franchise quarterback seemed upbeat. When asked by reporters about his recovery process, Phil B. reports that Manning said:

I don’t know what HIPAA stands for, but I believe in it and I practice it. I’ll leave it at that.

In the same report:

And just do me a favor, guys, please don’t ask the linemen and the receivers how I’m doing because it annoys them. They get mad at me. You all just took 15 minutes of (Jeff) Saturday’s workout time answering questions about me and now he’s mad at me. So, you’ll have to do me a favor there. Ask me then maybe ask Caldwell and hopefully maybe leave everybody else alone, if that’s possible. Just that request, I know you don’t have to do it.

All of this was said amid smiles and laughs. It can be said that if Peyton Manning is truly worried about his chances to play against Houston, he is doing an excellent job of not letting on. Sure, he is unwilling to get intricate details about his recovery process or even the specifics surrounding his injury, he is also completely willing to shoot around the topic and keep things light-hearted. How these quotes and his attitude cannot be seen as a positive sign is beyond me.

As a side not for fans who have been trying desperately to ascertain when or how Manning’s neck issues popped up, IndyStar.com’s Mike Chappell answered a fan question directed specifically at getting to the bottom of the issue.

The neck situation is something that began bothering Manning in February, but it subsided. Then it flared up against sometime around May. That’s when everyone decided surgery was the only real option. I talked with Bill Polian the other day and he insisted Manning hasn’t suffered any setback during his rehabilitation. It’s just that this type of injury takes time, and there’s no way to put a definitive timetable for the rehab.

While there was some speculation that Manning’s neck injury occurred during the Week 1 match-up against the Texans in 2010, Chappell is a well regarded source for news with access to the team. I think most sports journalists and bloggers would agree that his opinion and reports carry a great deal of weight concerning the Colts.

Roster Updates

For Colts fans wondering how the offensive line depth chart would shake out, it was confirmed today that the team intends to keep veteran lineman Ryan Diem at right guard. Phil B. Wilson ponders whether the team is making the moving out of confidence in Jeff Linkenbach or as a sign that rookie second round pick Benjamin Ijalana is progressing so well that Diem is not longer needed to focus on his former position.

Wilson also reports that wide receiver Blair White indicated to him that he was close to being able to return to the field. If true, White could be healthy in time to retain his spot on the roster. Very little has been shown from the rookie receivers as pass-catchers that would give them a boost over White in that role.

Even though I speculated in two stories this week that the team may retain veteran cornerback Cornelius Brown for his experience in the defensive system, he was placed on the waived/injured list earlier today. This move significantly improves the chances of Terrance Johnson and Brandon King. The move also coincided with the signing of veteran safety Michael Hamlin.

Hamlin was one of the more high profile safety prospects to enter the NFL in the 2009 NFL Draft. Taken in the fifth round by the Dallas Cowboys, he has been unable to lock down a starting spot but replaces the recently departed Chip Vaughn from the same draft class.

Veteran linebacker Gary Brackett and safety prospect Al Afalava both returned to practice on Monday. This is a good sign on both accounts as having Brackett on the field will get a defensive unit who showed a lot against the Packers a chance to do it again with more pieces. For Afalava, he needs this week to make a final run at a roster spot. While he missed time he lost ground to roster hopeful David Caldwell.

Paul Kuharsky of the ESPN AFC South Blog reports that the team is satisfied with David Gilreath as the team’s punt returner. Joe Lefeged and Larrone Moore will return kicks against the Bengals. Moore has little or no chance to win that competition.

Veteran backup quarterback Kerry Collins is listed third on the Colts official depth chart, behind Manning and Painter. Kuharsky speculates that is just a nice gesture toward Painter. Chappell releases specifics about Collins’ two-year $14 million contract. The first year is a $4 million total payment with a $2.75 million cap hit. The second year would pay a hefty $10 million base salary that the Colts are unlikely to eat. The only way that would happen is if Manning’s injury is so serious that it ends his career.

Finally, Tom James reports that the following players sat out of Monday’s practice: S Antoine Bethea (hamstring), WR Anthony Gonzalez (hamstring), WR Austin Collie (foot), OT Ryan Diem (groin), and WR Blair White (PUP, back).

Outside Reports

A couple of interesting news stories from outside the team popped up today. Those stories include a 6-year $100 million contract for the Eagles Michael Vick. This is an interesting move for the Eagles who found themselves in a situation recently with Donovan McNabb failing to maintain a high level of performance and is a huge leap of faith for a player who has never been consistent on the field, has gotten into trouble off of the field, and who has a history of failing to stay healthy during the regular season.

The other occurrence was the Patriots releasing veteran safety James Sanders. With so little proven depth in the secondary, his $2.8 million base salary could get a glance from the Colts front office. Football Outsiders lists him as the Patriots best safety in coverage, which would likely put him behind Antoine Bethea at free safety if the team chose to bring him in. He took 819 snaps in 2010 in a three-man safety rotation and started for the Patriots over the weekend alongside Brandon Meriweather.

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