INDIANAPOLIS – No matter what the topic is around the Colts, the topic of Peyton Manning and his rehabilitation from neck surgeries seems to emerge.
Manning missed the 2011 season following neck procedures, and his rehabilitation is on-going.
At the announcement of the hiring Head Coach Chuck Pagano, the new field leader was not able to address the matter. Owner and CEO Jim Irsay was presented the question if the next order of business for him would be to resolve the on-going matter with Manning.
What always has been a health matter was enunciated again by Irsay on Thursday.
"I think there is much more than that. This is a football team and it's about many issues that you have to get right. It's always as (I've said before) been a very simple issue. It's a health issue. That's the part that I focus on."
Manning remains around Indianapolis for his rehabilitation long after many of his teammates have left town. He has seen the organization go through a restructuring period that has brought new General Manager Ryan Grigson to the hierarchy along with Pagano. A new coaching staff is being pieced together and Manning commented publicly this week about his feelings on the changes. It is something Irsay commented on, too.
"I have so much affection and appreciation for Peyton. We're family. We always will be, and we are," said Irsay. "When it comes to being competitive, let's just say on a scale of 1-to-10, with 10 being the highest, we're both 11's. … I don't think it's in a good interest to paint the Horseshoe in a negative way. He's such a big part of that, and the Horseshoe always comes first. One thing he's always known…you keep it in the family. If you have a problem, you talk to each other."
Asked again about Manning and where his situation stands, Irsay pointed out again this is a matter of health.
"This is not a complicated situation," said Irsay. "The level of respect and affection and all those things I have for him is so evident. This is a health issue. It's something as we get into February, we'll sit down and talk and see where we are on that issue. That's kind of where it stands."
Manning painted a dire picture of the team's working facility this week, and Irsay down-played the remarks.
"Complexes are completely shut down, unless you're in the Super Bowl this time of year. It's always quiet," said Irsay. "The only players that ever come in, it would be unusual cases to rehab. It's a normal environment around here. Of course it's an environment where we're going through a transition with a re-structuring of the organization. He knows that. There's not any sort of a bad situation around here for healing. That's not a correct perspective. Like I said, you keep it in-house. You're a family. You talk to each other if you have problems. We'll work it through. We'll work it through hand-in-hand. We'll talk, and we'll continue to talk as we get into February and get closer to the league year."
Manning's health matter and the rehabilitation of it are things that have been in the public's view for months. The nature of Manning's injury is one that is much more delicate than other maladies that can happen in the game. It is that delicate health matter that Irsay is juggling. He stresses the importance of the matter, how hard it as been on everyone involved and that no decision has been made at this point. It is a matter that still needs to evolve.
"This is a neck. This isn't an ankle. This isn't a shoulder. This isn't something along those lines," said Irsay. "Oftentimes the NFL is criticized for putting people on the field and putting them at risk. I'm not going to do that. … That's not the integrity. That's not where I come from. What he's done for this city, what he's done for this state, for the franchise, what he means to me and our fans, that's not going to be the situation. He and I have to talk, see where his health is and go from there as we get into February. This isn't about money. This is about health, about long-term life. That's a big weight on me. It's my responsibility. Any time you put a player on the field, it falls to that situation.
"I think fans have known this has been a very tough situation. It's been very hard on Peyton, very hard on the franchise and very hard on the fans. It's very difficult. … When players are hurt, it takes an emotion toll, too. I make allowances for that. I understand how tough that is. … What we have in terms of our fans and our franchise and the Horseshoe and Peyton, and what he's meant to us, it's undeniable. There always will be a connection there forever."
Irsay stressed a final time that time is needed.
"I don't think any decision has been reached. It's something I know we both want to sit down and talk about sometime after the Super Bowl and sometime before the new league year starts.
A lot of people try to read a lot of things into a lot of situations. The truth is some situations remain unknown. When it gets to a certain point in time when decisions have to be made, then you look at it. I don't think anything at this point has been determined."