In the Training Room: Manning May Practice, Won’t Play This Year

To respond to rumors that were swirling today about whether Manning might still see game time this year, Bill Polian held an unusual press conference(ish) after the Colts’ 27-13 win over the Titans.  In the conference, he addressed both the procedure in which Manning threw this week, and what is to come:

  • “Peyton went through a prescribed rehabilitation session” on Wednesday, and the Colts “broke no rule.”
  • They met with doctors the next day, and they determined “that there was no chance he would play this year.”
  • “He may practice in some very script and circumscribed circumstances if he wishes. That’s entirely up to him…. it probably isn’t an issue this coming week.”

There are a few ways to assess what is happening here…

1. It seems quite positive to me that Manning has gotten to the point where (a) he threw the ball a bit in what were alleged to be practice-like plays (not just “lobbing” the ball around), and (b) the team is giving him the flexibility to decide if he wants to participate in a real practice. 2. It could be viewed as a negative that he conducted this session on Wednesday, and that the next day it was determined he wasn’t ready to do more.  But I don’t think it was ever feasible that Manning would enter a game this year, especially when it had taken nearly 3 months for them to declare that his neck had achieved “firm fixation.” 3. It is unclear to me what visibility the Colts can or will have of Peyton’s progress after the season ends for them on January 1.  Bob Kravitz writes that, “league rules will not allow Manning and the team to have some kinds [sic] of informal post-season workouts.”  I assume Manning could still get together with other teammates (as he had been doing last year around that time, during the lockout), and I’m not sure why he couldn’t invite a coach or team official to come watch.  I suppose there’s an argument that he would want to keep his exact status a secret from the team and force their hand in terms of the option, but I just don’t see him doing that.  Manning wants to play, and will do what he can to prove he can do so. 4. The final subplot here is the rumored rift between Manning and the front office.  There were Polian’s comments that Manning and Luck could co-exist, then Archie Manning’s comments that it wouldn’t be good for either QB (then a retraction of sorts saying that they could co-exist).  Then today’s antics where Polian seemed to go out of his way to kill rumors… some will certainly view the declaration that Peyton won’t play as a power play by the team over Manning. Here’s another theory… could it be that the Colts are trying to raise the price of that #1 pick (should they end up with it)?  A couple of thoughts in that direction… Archie changing his tune could have been at Polian’s request (“Hi Archie… uhhh… Bill here… sooo… we kinda want you to say the QBs can co-exist so that other teams in the league think there wouldn’t be friction if we did draft him, but in reality we’re going to trade him away because Peyton’s looking good”).  And keeping Peyton from seeing live action (and subsequently keeping other teams from seeing him play live) leaves the doubt in their minds about how far he’s truly come and whether the Colts really need to get a QB with their first round pick.  But maybe that’s a stretch…