Inside the Training Room: Being Peyton Manning

Another day, another question directed at QB Peyton Manning about whether he thinks he’ll play in Week 1 of the 2011 NFL season.  Manning was interviewed by CBS sideline reporter Sam Ryan during Indianapolis’ Friday night game against Green Bay, and his status for Week 1 was predictably the first area she mentioned. Manning’s answers were equally predictable:

I sure hope [I’ll play].  I’ve never missed a game in my entire career because of injury. I sure don’t want to start in Week 1 of this season.  My goal is to play — not just play but play competitively. I want to help the team win. If I’m able to do so, I’ll be out there. (Alex Marvez reporting for FOXSports.com)

When asked about where he was in his rehab, Manning responded:

I’m right in the middle of it.  I’m working very hard every single day. I have some more [work] left to do. I still have some time [before the Sept. 11 season opener]. (Tom James reporting for CBS Rapid Reports)

Finally, Manning added that he had “a few weeks,” and that,

at the appropriate time, I think I’ll know what the right decision is with the help of Coach Caldwell and the doctors (Tom James)

Shortly after posting his story, Marvez followed up that Indianapolis General Manager Chris Polian had provided a bit more information on Manning’s status:

We’ve still got a couple weeks to get ready. Hopefully, he is ready. Certainly, everybody is hoping for that. But we don’t know that at this point. We know he’s not going to play in the preseason.” (Tweet #1 and #2)

Throughout the interview, Peyton seemed relaxed and confident.  As Greg Cowan said to me after the game, Manning was in “full on Southern drawl tonight.”  It reminded me a bit of the on-set interview Manning did with the NFL Network after last season’s Week 14 win at Tennessee – he wasn’t quite as animated, but he was also less guarded and sounded less scripted than he has in recent interviews.  Of course he may have sounded like that because, as Cowan also pointed out, “I don’t think he expected anyone to ask him about his neck tonight.” Prognosis:  Coltzilla has maintained that, while Manning’s status has been a mystery, it is more likely than not that he will play Week 1.  Tony Dungy reinforced that notion last week, and even Tom Brady – a fierce competitor but also a friend of sorts with Manning – thinks there is no doubt.  A few points to remember while thinking about this: (1) the Colts would not have signed Manning to a $90 million contract if they thought he couldn’t play, even for a few games – they could have left the tag on and renegotiated once he proved himself healthy; (2) Manning has been fairly visible and accessible to the media, something the Colts don’t typically allow with injured players (granted, Manning is not the typical player); and (3) he has already been seen throwing “with decent velocity,” and experts like ESPN’s Stephania Bell seem to agree that his recovery is more likely to continue on an upward trajectory (however slow). UPDATE: After the game, Marvez tweeted the following:

Colts HC Jim Caldwell said Fri night it was a “realistic possibility” that Peyton Manning could soon be activated from the PUP list.

This is definitely positive news, but don’t forget that this is a necessary move in the event that Manning is available to play any of the first 6 games of the season.  Were he to remain on the PUP list beyond September 3 (final cut-down date), he would not be eligible to play until Week 7. UPDATE #2: ESPN’s Paul Kuharsky reported that Colts officials “continue to acknowledge that Manning’s rehab is progressing well… and have repeatedly said that there has been not been a setback in Manning’s recovery, something Polian reiterated Friday.”

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