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January 27, 2012

Irsay: Manning comments should have stayed in-house

INDIANAPOLIS — Not only did the Colts introduce new head coach Chuck Pagano during an afternoon press conference, team owner Jim Irsay also made his feelings known about recent comments that quarterback Peyton Manning made.

Immediately following the conclusion of Pagano’s introductory meeting with the media and team employees, Irsay answered an array of questions that ranged from explaining how the hiring process for his new coach was conducted to Manning’s thoughts on the mood of the Colts’ organization following the dismissals of Bill and Chris Polian, coach Jim Caldwell and several members of the Indianapolis coaching staff.

While he’s pleased with the addition of the high-energy Pagano and expects big things from the former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator, Irsay’s mood intensified a bit when asked about the status of his $26 million signal caller.

“I don’t think it’s in the good interests to paint the Horseshoe in a negative light,” Irsay said. “I really don’t. He’s such a big part of that and everything else. The Horseshoe always comes first. I think one thing he’s always known, because he’s been around it so long, is you keep it in the family. If you’ve got a problem, you talk to each other. It’s not about campaigning or anything like that. That’s the only thing.”

“Look, I have so much affection and appreciation for Peyton. We’re family. We always will be and we are. He’s a politician. When it comes to being competitive, let’s say on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest, we’re both 11s,” Irsay said.

That wasn’t all, although Irsay attempted to dial back his irritation.

“This is not a complicated situation. The level of respect, affection and all those things that I have for [Manning] is so evident,” he said, adding that there has still been no decision made on Manning’s future status. At least no decision that the Colts’ owner wants to discuss at the present time, although the March 8 deadline is looming in regards to a $28 million roster bonus.

“This is a health issue and it’s something as we get into February, we’ll sit down and talk and see where we are on that issue. That’s kind of where it stands,” Irsay explained. “There’s not any sort of a bad situation around here for healing or anything like that. Like I said, keep it in-house. You’re a family. You talk to each other if you have problems. And he knows that.”

The talk of Manning overshadowed the Colts announcement of Pagano as the new head coach. Pagano displayed his sense of humor when asked about Manning’s future with the team.

“You know, I’ve got a text or a call out to Rob Lowe and I haven’t heard back yet, so I’m going to have to get back to you on that one,” Pagano said, referring to the recent tweet by Lowe that Manning would retire.

Irsay said he and Manning will communicate a lot in the next month in making decisions about the future.

“So we’ll work it through and we’ll work it through hand-in-hand. And we’ll talk and we’ll continue to talk as we get into February and get closer to the league year. That’s kind of where it stands right now.”

One thing was made clear. The Colts won’t put Manning on the field if he is not ruled healthy enough to play by team doctors and rehab specialists.

“Fans understand that this isn’t an ankle, this isn’t a shoulder, this isn’t something along those lines. Often times, the NFL is criticized for putting people out there and putting them at risk. I’m not going to do that. That’s not the owner, that’s not the integrity, that’s not what I come from,” Irsay said.

“This isn’t about money. This isn’t about any of those things. This is about health, about long-term life and all those sorts of things. And so that’s a big weight on me. It’s my responsibility. Any time you put a player on the field, [it] falls to that situation.”

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