News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 1, 2012

Manning tiptoes around health questions

Tom James
Tribune-Star Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and team owner Jim Irsay came to an agreement last week to keep any lingering issues about Manning's future with the team on the backburner during Super Bowl week.

For the most part, they have stuck to the agreement. Irsay shrugged off questions Monday when asked about his veteran quarterback’s continuing recovery from neck fusion surgery. For his part, Manning did a nice job of trying to sidestep the same type of queries Tuesday when he made an appearance at the Super Bowl Media Center.

“I’m working hard. I really had a good rehab session [Tuesday]. I continue to work hard. I continue to make progress. The doctors are encouraged and that’s encouraging to me. I’ll keep doing that and Jim and I will talk at the right time,” the veteran signal caller voiced.

 Manning added that no meeting has been scheduled with Irsay to discuss how the next few weeks are going to play out. He is due a $28 million team bonus on March 8, but the Colts are expected to take a good, hard look at Manning’s recovery and make a decision on whether to keep him on the roster or to give him his release.

 No matter what happens with Manning's recovery, Indianapolis is expected to take a quarterback – either Stanford’s Andrew Luck or Baylor’s Robert Griffin III – with the first pick of the 2012 National Football League draft.

“[Irsay is] busy this week. He and I are going to have dinner together on Sunday along with some other NFL people. The [Super Bowl] host owner has a dinner every year,” Manning voiced. “He and I have been talking. We’re having fun. We’re proud of the way the city has responded to this week, putting on a great Super Bowl.”

One thing Manning did make clear: he has no plans to retire anytime soon. Of course, if his rehab does not yield the results he wishes, the decision to end his 14-year NFL career will be taken out of his hands.

 “I have no plans on [retiring],” he said. “I’m enjoying this week being part of the city having the Super Bowl. The downtown is rocking right now. The weather’s awesome. The host committee’s done a great job.

“All the other talk, it is what it is. My plan hasn’t changed. I’m on track with the doctors have told me to do. I’m doing that. I’m rehabbing hard.”

Earlier in the day, Manning was interviewed by ESPN.

“[My health is good. I really feel good. I’ve continued to make progress every day. Everything that the doctors have told me has been on point, which is encouraging to me,” he said. “I just had a great [Tuesday] at rehab.  That’s what I’m going to continue to do, just keep trying to get better. So far I have. That’s the plan from here on out.”

Manning added that he has gotten good reports from his surgeon and team medical personnel.

“The doctors and I have been in good constant communication. We’re on the same page and I’m very encouraged by what they said,” he stressed. “I’ll see these guys for some checkups throughout the next few weeks. Everything they’re saying is right on point. Everything looks good, that I’ll be cleared and ready to go and that’s encouraging to me.”

As for that March 8 deadline, the four-time league Most Valuable Player didn’t have anything new to declare.

“That’s hard for me to answer. Jim Irsay and I are going to talk. It’s been tough to do it this week. We will [meet] at the appropriate time and when we do, I think some decisions will be made after that. Until then, I’m just continuing to rehab, work hard and to enjoy this week,” Manning said, adding that there is no rift between himself and Irsay.

“[Our relationship is] great, great. It’s always been great and it’ll continue to be great for the rest of our lives, I assure you of that.”

• Arians official – Former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians was officially hired by the Colts Tuesday.

Arians was Manning’s quarterbacks coach in Indianapolis for three seasons (1998-2000) before moving on to Cleveland. He has been on the Steelers coaching staff for the past eight years, including the last five as offensive coordinator.

Indianapolis also announced that ex-Steelers offensive assistant Harold Goodwin as been hired as the team's new offensive line coach. Goodwin had been with Pittsburgh since 2007 and also was the assistant offensive line coach for Chicago from 2004-06. Prior to that, he was the offensive line coach at Central Michigan from 2000-03.

Two more members of Jim Caldwell’s previous coaching staff, assistant offensive line coach Ron Prince and tight ends coach Ricky Thomas, were both dismissed by new coach Chuck Pagano. Thomas spent 10 seasons with the Colts (2002-11). Prince had been the assistant offensive line coach with Indianapolis for the past two years.