Peyton Manning takes on new role in Indianapolis
Peyton Manning has gone from being Indy's most valuable player to the team's most valuable adviser.
The quarterback who continually made all those improbable comebacks again finds himself trying to bail out the Colts, this time from the sideline.
It's an unusual place for the guy who has been a fixture behind center.
''He's a resource for us, and he's a guy that's been around this system for a long time,'' coach Jim Caldwell said Monday. ''It's what I identify as, 'intellectual property,' and I don't think that you're very smart if you don't use it.''
Yes, Manning is still adapting to his new place in the Colts hierarchy.
After opening his NFL career with 227 consecutive starts including the playoffs, Manning has now missed three straight games since having neck surgery to repair a damaged nerve. The Sept. 8 surgery was the third on his neck in 19 months, and nobody knows when he'll return to action.
Doctors say it will take at least two months for Manning's spinal fusion to heal properly and even longer to get back into playing shape - a timetable that could keep him out for the rest of the season, especially if the Colts (0-3) keep losing.
But that doesn't mean Manning has been out of sight or out of mind at the team complex.
Last week, Manning briskly walked laps around the Colts' practice fields. He's been involved in team meetings and Sunday night, he showed up in the coaches' booth. He could be there again Monday night, if the doctors allow him to travel.
Team officials want Manning involved.
''He will do what he does all the time. He will attend the quarterback meetings, take his own notes, make his own suggestions,'' Colts vice chairman Bill Polian said on his weekly radio show Monday night. ''The only difference is that the quarterback in the game will have a very loud voice in the background.''
It's been a calming presence for Kerry Collins and Curtis Painter.
Collins, a 17-year veteran, is still trying to get acclimated to the Colts' offense, the no-huddle calls and his new receivers. Painter is in his third season as a backup to Manning but has thrown only 39 passes in the regular season and could make his first NFL start at Tampa Bay if Collins can't go. Collins has been dealing with a sore throwing shoulder and a possible concussion.
On Tuesday, Indy re-signed veteran Dan Orlovsky, but he has yet to play in a regular season game with the Colts.
Manning will now advise all three.
''Prior to that (touchdown drive) it was just communication,'' Painter said of Manning's influence during Sunday night's loss to Pittsburgh. ''After that drive, (we talked) a little bit. I wasn't in there too long so I didn't talk to him a ton. There was constant communication throughout the whole game.''
All of the quarterbacks appreciate the help, though they and everyone else realizes it still comes down to execution.
''Peyton, he's not here, he's not playing and guys have to play with who's on the field,'' said center Jeff Saturday, one of Manning's closest friends.
But league rules are part of the reason Manning was occasionally muzzled Sunday.
Coaches upstairs, Polian said, are prohibited from speaking directly to the quarterback through the helmet radio, though they can speak with the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks on the sideline.
Otherwise, Manning can provide all the advice he, the coaches or his teammates are willing to accept.
''Those are the rules and they would apply to Peyton on game day,'' Polian said. ''But as long as he's under contract he can play any role that he wishes.''
The Colts intend to keep Manning on the active roster as long as possible.
While it's likely Manning won't throw a pass this season, the Colts are hoping he'll return to practice in December. That would give them a chance to see if Manning has regained full strength in his throwing arm.
But until then, Peyton's place will be playing the role of special adviser.
''It's always good to have him around,'' Caldwell said. ''We talk, we share information and we don't care whose idea it is. It's not who's right, it's what's right. So we use everything we possibly can to try to get ourselves in position to get a victory.''