Colts Hold First Practice of Super Bowl XLIV Week at Dolphins Practice Facility
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The peripheries are of little concern to Peyton Manning.
Manning, in his 12th season as the Colts' quarterback, has heard many of the storylines around Super Bowl XLIV. He said Wednesday many have something in common.
They mean little when it comes to the game.
So, while there are those in the media and certainly fans who will spend this week wondering about matters such as Manning's place in history and that of the Colts, Manning said what really matters is Indianapolis has four more days to prepare for the season's biggest game.
And that's plenty to have on one's mind.
"Obviously, we talk about all the stories this week," Manning said Wednesday as the AFC Champion Colts (16-2) prepared to play the NFC Champion New Orleans Saints (15-3) in Super Bowl XLIV at Sun Life Stadium on Sunday.
"When it comes down to the game, though, it gets down to Xs and Os. I think the more you can block out on the outside the better you're going to be able to move the ball against (defensive end Will) Smith, (safety Darren) Sharper, (linebacker Jonathan) Vilma.
"That is what it's come down to all along. Once the game starts, that is what it is really all about."
The Colts on Wednesday had little trouble identifying Wednesday's theme:
For the first time in Super Bowl Week, it was about preparation and practice, and after an hour session with the media, very much not talking and answering questions.
"Our job is to get ready for this game," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said. "We aren't going to deal with hypothetical situations, but to deal with facts. The facts are that we are going to get ready to practice well today and we have to get ready this week because we have a very challenging team to play this week."
The Colts, who beat the New York Jets in the AFC Championship Game 10 days ago, returned to practice on Wednesday, their first practice since arriving in South Florida on Monday. The Colts practiced in the afternoon at the Miami Dolphins' facility.
According to a "pool re," the Colts worked for an hour and 48 minutes, with Manning "looking particularly sharp" and Freeney unavailable. The Colts worked without pads with the temperature at 75 degrees.
"Our Wednesday practices have been pretty sharp this year,'' Caldwell told pool reporter Peter King of Sports Illustrated. "This one was right in line with that. It went well out there. The guys got acclimated well and got some good work in.''
Also on Wednesday, the Colts released their first injury report of the week, with 19 players listed. Defensive end Dwight Freeney (ankle) and cornerback Jerraud Powers (foot) did not practice for the Colts, with the other 17 players participating fully.
The afternoon practice followed several media availabilities this week – Monday evening for six players, including Manning, and Caldwell; Tuesday and Wednesday for the entire team – and on Wednesday, Caldwell said it felt like time to again focus on football.
"I'm kind of looking forward to it," Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne said. "We've had some days off. A lot of the guys have gone to enjoy the sights and have a little fun. I think it's time to get back to business and the game, play some football.
"We're still here on business, and it's time to go ahead and get back to getting closer to that special place."
Said Colts defensive end Raheem Brock, "It'll be good. I'm ready to get back to work, get back on the field. It's been a couple of days so we've got to get back on the field, get ready for this week, and I'm excited. I'm ready to get started."
The Colts installed much of the game plan for Super Bowl XLIV during three practice days last week, with the idea being to arrive in South Florida prepared enough to play the game, a plan necessary because of the distractions of the week.
"We're just tweaking everything up," Brock said. "We were working hard last week. Practice last week was like we were preparing for the game Sunday, so we got a lot of things done last week. Everything this week is just finishing everything off."
The Colts have one remaining team media availability, Thursday morning, with their second practice of the week scheduled Thursday afternoon. And players said on Thursday while there is more time with the media than during a normal week, it's also to be expected during such a high-profile week.
"This is kind of something that you realize is just part of the gig," Clark said. "You just accept it for what it's worth. You'd rather be playing; you'd rather be practicing, but it's part of it. It's not bad. It's part of the game and it's a special game.
"There are a lot of people interested in it, so there are a lot of things to talk about."
One topic of discussion has been that of legacy, and just how a victory Sunday would enhance that of a Colts team that has won 12 or more games a record seven consecutive seasons, and that during the past decade set an NFL record by winning 115 games.
The Colts have won one Super Bowl during the span, beating the Chicago Bears, 29-17, but Manning said issues such as history won't occupy his pre-game thoughts.
"There is enough pressure to win this game as it is," Manning said. "There are so many reasons why you want to win. All of our players want to win for each other, first off. It has been a team season, but I feel we are in this together with certainly our management side, all our coaches, our ownership, our fans, the whole state of Indiana – Colts nation, if you will.
"It has been a team. All of those are part of the team. That is why we want to win the game."