Preserving Arm a Focus for Manning Entering 11th NFL Season
INDIANAPOLIS – The work ethic hasn't changed.
The off-season focus is still there, as is Peyton Manning's dedication throughout the off-season and regular season.
But when Manning, entering his 11th season as the Colts' starting quarterback, addressed the media for the final time during this year's organized team activities – 14 days of on-field workouts that will end next week – he said some things have changed.
He is getting older.
Therefore, he must be smarter.
And he said that's particularly true when it comes to the part of his body that has thrown 5,405 regular-season passes over the last decade.
"I really kind of try to be smart about preserving my arm," Manning, 32, said Thursday morning, shortly after a workout at the team's training facility.
Which is something the Colts long have focused upon, Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said Thursday.
Jim Caldwell, the team's quarterbacks coach from 2001-2007 and now the Associate Head Coach, has documented every pass Manning has made the past seven seasons, a count that includes off-season and preseason.
"They know how many throws they had in the offseason in 2002 and how many they had in training camp in 2005," Dungy said. "Jim does a great job of monitoring all of that. Jim has a great notebook of what we've done in the past, where we've been, how Peyton feels."
Manning, an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, a two-time NFL Most Valuable Player and the MVP of Super Bowl XLI, "is changing, obviously," Dungy said.
"Being 25 and being 30 is different," Dungy said. "The amount of throws he needs to get things done in this offense, it is different. You need to do different things, but I think Jim has done a great job of managing that.
"Peyton understands what he has to do to get ready. We're going to be cognizant of that and tailor things that way."
Toward that end, Manning said Colts Director of Rehabilitation Erin Barill has telephoned the trainers for former longtime starting quarterbacks such as Dan Marino, Brett Favre and John Elway.
Barill is "asking them questions about what do you do, post 32 or (post-) 10th year," Manning said. "It's uncharted territory for a lot of people around here. I have thrown a lot of passes being a starter for that many years and going back to college. You try to be smart about the throws.
"I try to have my arm be able to feel fresh throughout camp."
While Manning said preserving arm strength and stamina is key, he said it's necessary he work extensively during this period because of the imance of the workouts, particularly in recent seasons.
"We have to be smart about managing the numbers," Manning said. "That's still kind of where the biggest change has been for me, sort of managing the number of throws, and making sure they're all quality. Where I used to be able to stay after practice all day and throw as many as I want, now I have to be a little smarter about it, but because of the young players in there, you still need to get all the repetitions."
When speaking with the media Thursday, Manning discussed extensively the value of the OTAs, particularly working with the team's recently-drafted tight ends – Jacob Tamme of Kentucky and Tom Santi of Virginia – as well as first-year veteran tight end Gijon Robinson.
"For me, it's always been a time to get some really great work in with some of our new players, some of our young guys," Manning said. "I've actually kind of aside from our group work on the field had some individual sessions with some of these guys, guys like Gijon, Tamme, Santi, (wide receiver) Courtney Roby. It's just a good time to sort of teach and go over the little things in detail. Once you get to training camp, it's very competitive. It's a little more up-tempo. You're sort of on a schedule. There's not a lot of time for extra work. You've got to get back and get ready for the next practice.
"I've really had some good individual work with some of these young guys, because these guys are going to be called on to play for us a lot this year, especially with the tight end spot being vacant since (Ben) Utecht left. That third or fourth receiver's going to have to step up for us.
"That's sort of been my focus, much like it was last year. We are having some turnover at certain positions. We have some new guys. It's been a good time to get some work with those guys."
The development of the young tight ends will be crucial in the coming weeks, Manning said. Utecht signed with the Bengals as a free agent, and the team recently released veteran Bryan Fletcher.
They selected Tamme in the fourth round and Santi in the sixth. Robinson spent last season on the Colts' practice squad, and Dungy last week said the team likes him as run-blocker and hopes he will develop into an all-around player at the position.
Dallas Clark, a six-year veteran who last season set franchise single-season records for receptions and touchdowns by a tight end, is the lone Colts player with NFL experience at the position.
"I think 'G' (Robinson) is going to play a big role," Manning said. "He was in the system last year and he's a physical tight end. He needs to learn how to contribute in the passing game. In this system, you change from a run to a pass in a heartbeat.
"(Former Colts tight end) Ken Dilger, to me, kind of set the bar. He was that guy who could block so well, but also could really run. Marcus (Pollard) was more of the receiving type and that's kind of the role Dallas has. Santi and Tamme are both guys who can run and catch and they need to continue with their blocking skills and 'G' needs to be able to contribute to both. That's an important role."
The OTAs also have been valuable as a time to work with second-year wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez, Manning said.
Gonzalez, the Colts' first-round selection in the 2007 NFL Draft, caught 37 passes for 576 yards and three touchdowns last season. With perennial Pro Bowl selections Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison work out away from the facility, Gonzalez has been the top returning receiver at the OTAs.
"I always think you see some improvement with a guy from his rookie year to his second year, especially a guy who has played and really had some valuable experience like Anthony did his rookie year," Manning said. "He feels more comfortable in the system. Obviously, he needs to continue to work and continue to improve. I think he is doing that.
"You still can't get enough reps with him and enough work with him. The dialogue I have with him is still important in between reps, during practice about routes and adjustments and whatnot. It's still sort of a work in process, but I'm pleased with the work so far."
ETC., ETC.: Thursday was the last day of work in the third week of OTAs, which will conclude with four days of work next week. "The more we're kind of working our way through this schedule, the more I think our coaches are liking it," Dungy said. "We really got a lot done with our young guys, rookies, first- and second-year guys." . . . Dungy said the Colts plan to practice at least once at Lucas Oil Stadium before the first preseason home game against the Buffalo Bills on August 24. "It needs to be comfortable," Manning said. "We don't need to have guys looking around. The teams coming in for the first time might be doing that, but for us, it needs to be comfortable." Manning said his hope during practice at LOS is to "throw both directions, throw a lot of touchdowns." The Colts practiced at the RCA Dome during his rookie season in 1998, something Manning said "was kind of good for me, to get comfortable down there." He added, "I think that will be enough to get everybody comfortable and on the same page. That's something that will be important." . . . Dungy said the first three weeks of OTAs have been beneficial for the Colts'