**Whatever the Playing Time, Manning Says Next Two Weeks Imant
INDIANAPOLIS – Peyton Manning says he does not know what Thursday will bring.
Perhaps he will play some and – if history is an indication – perhaps he will not, but the Colts' nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback said whatever happens in the 2009 preseason finale, there's something equally important – and perhaps even moreso.
Manning, entering his 12th season as the Colts' quarterback, said that in a very real sense, training camp isn't over yet. So, the key in the next two weeks?
Practice, practice, practice.
"I still feel like we're in training camp mode," Manning said Tuesday afternoon as the Colts (1-2 in the preseason) prepared to play the Cincinnati Bengals (1-2) in the 2009 preseason finale at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
"I don't know how much the older guys will play this Thursday, but I know we're practicing this week like it's a normal week. We're taking the majority of the repetitions.
"We're going to use this week to get better."
The Colts will play host to the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium in the 2009 regular-season opener Sunday, September 13 at 1 p.m.
Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said Tuesday he did not yet know what starters and front-line players will play Thursday, or for how long.
"This week is important for us, because of the fact there will be some starters who may not play in this game," Caldwell said. "I think we're going to make that determination this evening, but the most important thing is we continue to improve. Today is a big day in terms of our practice session.
"We want to stay sharp and start to improve a little bit upon some of the things we've had some difficulty with – staying away from penalties, being able to extend drives, things of that nature – and on the other side of the ball, obviously we have to improve as well.
"We need to try to strengthen those things before we play Jacksonville."
Manning said he has not been told how much – or if – he will play Thursday. He has not played in the preseason finale since 2004 and has never missed a regular-season NFL start.
"Because we have new players in there, if you told me this year we had a couple of more games to play, I'd probably take them," Manning said. "I feel like game speed is different than practice speed, but obviously it's important to get everybody healthy before the season opener it sounds like from a playing situation.
"That's why these last practices up until that Sunday against Jacksonville are truly important – just getting more and more comfortable each day with some of the new receivers and some of the new players in the huddle."
Caldwell said in an effort to glean the most from the practice sessions, the first-team offense at times is working with the first-team defense. Caldwell said the Colts are almost "50-50 in terms of training camp and preparation for Cincinnati."
"We try to make certain we still get the same type of tempo that we look for practice to practice, and that there is some challenge placed on them as well," Caldwell said. "We make certain we present challenges for both sides of the ball and our kicking game. It's not one of those situations where simply because we have a short week we're not trying to get them sharp."
Manning has spoken throughout the preseason of improving timing with a group of young offensive skill plays, a unit that includes second-year tight end Jacob Tamme, rookie wide receiver Austin Collie and second-year wide receiver Pierre Garcon. The group has combined to catch 19 passes for 240 yards, but none of the trio has started a regular-season game.
"I still think we need to use these last two weeks of practice right up until the Jacksonville game to improve, to figure out what personnel are going to be in there on certain down-and-distances, to figure out our rotations at the wide receiver positions," Manning said.
The Colts' first-team offense, after allowing three sacks and producing one first down in a six-play appearance in the preseason opener, has improved dramatically since.
"I feel good about where we are right now," Caldwell said. "Obviously, you want to be perfect. You want every drive where you take the field culminated with a touchdown. That has not happened this preseason, but we've been pretty efficient, so we're pleased with the progress. We've still got to get better."
Against the Philadelphia Eagles in week two, Manning was sacked once and led two long touchdown drives in three possessions. He completed touchdown passes of 76 and three yards to wide receivers Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez, respectively, and finished the game 10-of-14 passing for 167 yards.
In the third preseason game in Detroit this past week, he completed 12 of 15 passes for 123 yards and a six-yard touchdown to tight end Dallas Clark.
Manning, who did not play in the preseason last year because of offseason knee surgery, has completed 23 of 31 passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions for a passer rating of 136.0.
"I can't really give you an update or a progress report right now," Manning said. "I think we have to continue to work hard and try to get better and try to get more comfortable with each other as a unit."
The Colts on Tuesday also announced that in order to reach the 75-player roster limit, the club waived defensive back Marcus Paschal. The club must narrow its active roster to 53 players by Saturday.