By Tom James
INDIANAPOLIS — Rumors, rumors and still more rumors.
With Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning still on the mend after undergoing surgery nearly seven weeks ago to remove an infected bursa sac from his left knee, it’s natural that Internet chatter concerning his long-term availability was bound to crop up at some point.
Such was the case Thursday when former NFL team executive Mike Lombardi, writing in a blog for The National Football Post Web site, said league sources told him that Manning recently underwent a second medical procedure on his knee and that his recovery period may be much longer than what had been announced by team officials.
“I talked to several people in the NFL [Wednesday] who know things and they assure me that Peyton Manning’s knee is a huge concern for the Colts. Apparently Manning had to go through another procedure on his knee to clean things out after having his bursa sac removed last month. What is the most concerning is not the second operation [which the Colts are denying], but that they cannot control the swelling in Manning’s knee and any physical movement causes more swelling,” Lombardi wrote in his blog.
“Once he returns to the game, gets hit, has to place a load on the knee, and drive the ball, there can be swelling. All I know is that there is much more here than meets the eye. Manning has the trainer come over to his home for rehab and is rarely seen. Now, I have been with some big-time quarterbacks in my career like Joe Montana and Rich Gannon and never have they rehabbed from home. I thought this was not an issue and that Manning would be back. However, after talking to my friends in the league, it’s clear that this is a huge concern short- and long-term for the Colts.”
As to be expected, Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy downplayed Lombardi’s assertions during his daily pre-practice media briefing.
“I saw something on a blog and I think you have to go to the person who wrote that and interview him. I’ll leave it at that,” Dungy said. “I’d kind of like to go to that person myself and ask him. So if you’ll [the media] do it for me, that’ll save me a call.
“There’s always going to be [rumors]. There’s always going to be speculation. Maybe that’s good for us. It’ll keep the [Chicago] Bears guessing.”
I I I
n Dungy, Saturday remember Upshaw — The news that NFL Players Association President Gene Upshaw had died Wednesday evening was received with shock and sadness at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Complex.
Upshaw, 63, had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer Sunday. The former Oakland Raiders offensive guard, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987, died at his home in California.
“It’s really sad. I heard, actually, when I was on the way to work [Thursday] morning. It’s very surprising, obviously. Gene is a guy I played against and knew for a long time, since 1977 actually,” the Colts’ coach said.
“I thought he had done a tremendous job for the union. He was a great player and did a great job in that capacity. You hate to see that happen. It’s a very, very tough day.”
Dungy was a safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers when he played against Upshaw and the Raiders in the late 1970s.
“It was a pretty intense rivalry,” he recalled. “Gene had some epic battles with [Steelers defensive tackle] Ernie Holmes and they were fun to watch. I’m watching my position, but I certainly watched [Upshaw against Holmes] as we replayed the [game] films. It was fun and you knew that those games were going to mean something in the playoffs at the end of the year.”
Center Jeff Saturday, meanwhile, worked with Upshaw as an NFLPA team player representative and as a member of the union’s executive committee.
“It’s real sad. Gene was a great leader for us and someone I’ve gotten to know the past few years. I’m very shocked. Gene did not know [that he had pancreatic cancer]. He found out on Sunday, so his family had enough time to get out to him and he was surrounded by his family when he passed. Obviously, I feel really bad for [Upshaw’s wife] Terri and his sons. I just can’t imagine what the family is going though,” Saturday said.
“I think that any player who has touched our game in the past 20 years has been positively influenced by [Upshaw’s] leadership. Whether it be raising the minimum [salary] for rookies, whether it be for veterans, whether it be for retired players, you name it. If you continue to look back over the past 20 years, he’s done nothing but improve our game from the player’s perspective. I think everybody can sit back and honestly — some people might criticize certain things he has done — but, overall, I don’t think you could’ve asked for a better leader over the past 20 years.”
Richard Berthelsen, the NFLPA’s longtime General Counsel, was unanimously named the union’s interim executive director Thursday afternoon after a conference call with executive committee members.
n Santi still on PUP list, doing some work — Rookie tight end Tom Santi (knee) is working out on his own but is still on the team’s physically unable to perform list.
“He is actually working out and has done some things and looks like he’s close to being ready to go,” the Colts’ coach said. “We have to make a decision whether to take him off and get started or not. He’s feeling better. He’s probably in the same capacity as [safety] Bob Sanders and [defensive end] Dwight Freeney were in for a couple of weeks. They were, in their minds, ready to go and anxious to get started.”
n Freeney, Sanders might play — A decision should be forthcoming today or Saturday about whether Freeney or Sanders will take the field against Buffalo on Sunday night.
“We will see how the rest of the week goes. After [today’s] practice, if they’re ready to go,” Dungy said. “They certainly won’t play as much as the other starters, but we’ll get them a good dose.”