AIMING FOR THE OPENER

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning on Tuesday made his first public comments since late July. Shortly after attending the team's practice at Lucas Oil Stadium, Manning said his left knee is progressing and his goal is to be ready for the regular-season opener against Chicago on September 7.

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Manning Said His Goal Is To Be Ready for September 7 Regular-Season Opener
INDIANAPOLIS – Peyton Manning won't say the past month has been easy.

And the Colts' eight-time Pro Bowl quarterback certainly won't say when he absolutely, positively will return to practice, or when he will play in a game.

But Manning did say on Tuesday his left knee is progressing.

And he said his goal remains the same:

To be ready to play the Colts' regular-season opener against the Chicago Bears in the new, state-of-the-art Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis on Sunday, September 7.

"Certainly, that is our goal," Manning said Tuesday, making his first public comments since late July shortly after attending the Colts' first practice at Lucas Oil Stadium.

"It has been my goal all along. We'll have to hope it continues to progress up until that point."

He later added, "All along, that has been our goal to get back on the field to play that first game. As to when I'm going to be back on the practice field, that has kind of yet to be determined."

Manning, who never has missed a regular-season start in 10 NFL seasons, underwent surgery to remove an infected bursa sac in his left knee 10 days before the Colts opened training camp on July 24. The team at the time said Manning was expected to miss 4-to-6 weeks.

"I think it will be close on Peyton," Colts Owner and Chief Executive Officer Jim Irsay said while attending the practice downtown. "I've told him, 'Hey, it's a long season,' so only he'll know if he's ready. I think there's a good chance he will be.

"He has about two weeks before practices start for preparation (for the opening game). With the human body, you don't know for sure, but we're hopeful he'll be ready to go. I told him, 'Hey, I want to make sure you feel 100 percent and you're ready to go because it's a long season.' "

Irsay added, "Peyton's on schedule. We know there's more rehab ahead. He's on schedule and the anticipation is he'll be ready, but it will be close. Everything has been pretty much as expected in terms of work on the range of motion and the rehab and there's no swelling or that sort of thing."

Irsay said the relative rarity of bursa sac-removal procedures makes an exact timeline for Manning's return difficult to determine.

"But everything's on track," Irsay said. "No setbacks."

Said Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy, "I kind of take the approach when they (doctors) say they (players) are ready to go, they'll be back. . . . I don't think we can guarantee that (Manning returning for the season opener). That's what we're trying to do, is develop a 53-man roster and be ready for anything. My sense is he will, but we'll see what happens."

Manning's appearance at practice was his first public appearance since the surgery, and his talk with the media afterward was the first time he addressed his knee since the Colts opened training camp.

"I really haven't had a whole lot to say, to tell you the truth," Manning said. "I've done nothing but rehab. . . .

"I'm doing OK. I've had a tough month. It's definitely been a challenge for me. It's something totally different than anything I've ever had to experience."

Manning said he has spent much of the past month working with Colts Director of Rehabilitation Erin Barill.

"He's been great," Manning said. "He's the guy who's really responsible for getting (defensive end) Dwight Freeney back and (safety) Bob Sanders back. He and I have gotten pretty close. He has been fantastic. He's really pushed me. It's a constant, everyday process. We have day-to-day goals and we're trying to accomplish something different each day. That's kind of where we are at this point. . . .

"It certainly has not been a pain-free process. I'd be lying if I said that. . . . It's been a challenge, but so far, Erin and I have faced up to it."

Manning said he has been able to throw and lift weights, and said he has been able to "stay at my strength level." He also said he was able to keep up mentally with the team's progress in training camp and preseason by reviewing practice tapes and talking with coaches and players.

"I feel mentally I've been able to stay into it – and coaches' orders – they've allowed me to put my rehab first and foremost and try to do whatever I can to get healthy and get out there," Manning said. "It's a totally new process for me. I have learned to put my full trust in Erin.

"He and I have had some pretty heated discussions and it has not been the most enjoyable process I've been through. But he has been great. He has challenged me and he has really kept me on an even keel as far as trying to make constant progress."

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