INDIANAPOLIS – Four-time MVP quarterback Peyton Manning and the Colts received good news on Thursday evening.
On a conference call with Manning and the club's medical staff, Dr. Robert Watkins issued the news: "X-ray and CT examination of the surgical area shows that the fusion performed in September has achieved firm fixation. Peyton will now be allowed to increase the intensity and breadth of his workouts as tolerated. There remains every indication that his recovery will continue. There still is no timetable for Peyton's return to practice, which is one of many steps in his expected return to game action. He is working hard on a rehabilitation program outlined in conjunction with myself, Erin Barill and Peyton. His response to this plan in the future will dictate his return date."
In a season of struggle for the franchise, the news was welcomed. After issuing a statement last evening indicating his encouragement and hope for continued progress, Manning spoke today.
"It's encouraging and gives me another part of the plan to go out there and try to execute (and) try to rehab. We'll see where it goes from there," said Manning in the locker room at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. "We'll find out (what 'ramping up' the rehabilitation will mean). I've been pretty good in following the doctor's orders and following (Director of Rehabilitation) Erin's (Barill) plan. It allows for more activities, and I look forward to kind of seeing what those are and trying to get back into a normal routine.
"It's nice kind of having the reins cut off you a little bit, and having a little more freedom to do some normal weight-lifting activities, on-the-field activities, things you're normally used to doing. It's good because it means we've done what we're supposed to do the past three months. It doesn't guarantee anything in this next phase, but it does allow you to step into that phase. The worst news we could have heard the other day was, 'Hey, you're still not where you want to be and you have to keep doing what you're doing.' He (Watkins) has given us clearance for the next phase, and I'll follow that as well as I can."
When asked if there were any chance he would practice before the season ends, Manning responded, "That would be what I would like to do. I would think the plan would be for the next phase is to go out there and see what I can do, now that I have a little more clearance. I would have liked to practice three months ago, liked to have played the first game of the season. If you're asking if I want to be out there, I think you know the answer to that question. I still do believe the practice is a great avenue to answer some questions and see where you are. We'll make that determination here in this next phase. If that's good, I'd like to do that. If it's better just to keep rehabbing in a private setting, then it's whatever Doc (Watkins) and Erin thinks is best. Certainly, is it what I'd like to do, sure. I'd like to suit up Sunday."
When quizzed on the matter of the regeneration of the nerves, Manning said, "(Dr.) Watkins cleared me yesterday for this next phase. We have some more questions to answer. We have some things we haven't been allowed to do in this past phase. Now that we can do a little more, throwing, if that's what you're asking, yeah, throwing will be part of this next progression. That is somewhat critical to my job (smiles). I will be throwing and have been doing some throwing. We have to ramp that up a little bit and answer some more questions about where we are. … I haven't done enough yet (to judge his strength and velocity). I've really been very patient, red tape and those kinds of things. We'll find those answers out. … Physically, I feel good. … I really have been in a three-month holding pattern. I have some questions I want to answer myself however long this next phase lasts. There has been no time table (for a return). I'll get some of those questions answered and do a little more and see how I'll respond. You have to do more to see if you have any drawbacks, or any pain, or any soreness or those kinds of things. Those are the questions I need to get answered myself."
Manning wanted to clarify whether he is on schedule to recover from the entire process.
"There is no schedule, never has been," said Manning. "That's one thing I made clear from the get-go. There is no time table on this thing. There is some unpredictability in this thing. I think we've had checkpoints. This (being cleared) is kind of a checkpoint. I don't know when the next one is. Whenever that checkpoint is, I hope for progress in this next phase. I can't guarantee what it will be. I'm just going to keep doing what they (medical staff) ask me to do.
"This was a good thing that the fusion took. I meet a lot of people who've had fusions (who say), 'Welcome to the fusion club.' I don't know if there are dues or there's a rush that you have to go through (smiles). I guess it's good to be part of that club. I know there are certainly cases where it doesn't take. I had an unstable neck. This means it is stable. That was comforting, purely on the health side of it. … You like to hear any type of good news. Dr. Watkins, he's a straight-shooter. I appreciate that. He told me this doesn't guarantee anything, but it was a good sign at this point."
Manning was asked about finishing out his career with the team and the upcoming 2012 draft. He preferred to just focus on his recovery and hoping the team has success this Sunday on the field.
"I understand the timing of that question," said Manning. "Yesterday was an important day for us. I'm still trying to digest that and see what I can do next. As far as questions about long-term career and about the 2012 draft, I think those are inappropriate, frankly, given the fact that a coach got fired this week, we have players playing for jobs, we have changes being made. It tells you this is a serious time for our team. All we want to do is get a win on Sunday. All I want to do is keep making progress. Anything beyond those two things (isn't) really on my radar at this point."
When pushed on possible future discussions on re-working his contract, Manning added, "Certainly, there will be a time and place to address it. I think a lot of questions will answer themselves in these next three months, if you will. … I just haven't thought about anything beyond trying to follow doctor's orders and be in a good position at these checkpoints. Contract, 2012 draft, anything beyond that, it's something I just haven't thought about. Certainly, I'm sure there will be a time when I need to think about it more, but it's just not the time right now."
On the question of if he would get into coaching when his career eventually is over, Manning mused, "I've had no thoughts about that. If I'm doing any coaching this year, I'm 0-11, that's my record. What does that tell you? I've never thought about that. I'm not thinking anything beyond what my current job is."
COLTS FRIDAY NOTEBOOK (QUOTE-UNQUOTE): Jim Caldwell(on WR-Wes Welker) "They do a good job of moving him around for a number of different reasons, I would suspect. You can't just settle in and say, 'Hey, we're going to double-team him here or there,' because they can keep the doubles off of him. Also, they move him around due to match-ups as well. They try to get him matched up on your linebackers. Depending on what kind of coverage that you're using, whether you're nickel or your dime, how does he get isolated on your (middle) linebacker, how do they isolate him on your outside linebacker away from your nickel and things of that nature. They do a lot of creative things to give him an opportunity to do what he does best. He's so quick that he's really tough to handle."Caldwell(on special teams improvements) "There's no question about that, we do need some improvement in all of those areas. Our return game, we need to be able to get some return yardage and get a little bit better field position. We've had maybe one let down here or there, in terms of our coverage. Last week it was on the kickoff coverage. We've had sporadic situations where we've done well for a few weeks, and then all of a sudden we have a bit of a letdown. We've got to get that straightened out. Our return teams, certainly, have been an area of concern for us, so we're trying to do a few things here and there to get it growing for us. (We) put Pierre (Garcon) back there a little bit, but we've also got to block for him. You've also got to be able to create some space for them as well." Caldwell(on OT-Anthony Castonzo) "He's a very talented guy who I think has had a lot of bright spots during the course of the year, but he's also had some of his ups and downs, too. It's a difficult game, and you have a little different challenge every week with some of the different fronts that you face and the different people that are involved in those. I think he's been able to adjust well. Obviously, he missed some time, but I think we all feel very good about the future with him. He's a smart, hard-working individual that does a great job of getting himself ready to play." Caldwell(on QB-Dan Orlovsky) "Dan's been the league a little while. He has experience in that regard. He was able to catch onto our system pretty quickly. Even when he was here in preseason, one of the things we all sort of marveled at was how quickly he was able to adapt and adjust. I think that's the thing you find out with the older guys in the league, they understand systems well. They do a real good job of being able to translate the information and function fairly quickly. What we anticipate him doing is being able to manage the offense. We do not plan to put all the weight on his shoulders. We're going to have to spread things around a little bit and do some things a little bit differently and try make certain we use his strengths. He's a dropback quarterback, but he also can get out of the pocket as well. We'll try to utilize his abilities (the) best we can." Caldwell(on worrying not about job security but on job performance) "I've been coaching for a long time. (Since) the first time I took a job at Southern Illinois University I've never worried about my job, and I don't today. I worry about doing my job well. That's it. Coaching is just one of those businesses. It's a performance business, plain and simple. I think everybody who's involved in this profession understands that. The best thing you do is focus in on what you can control, what's right ahead of you and go after it. Don't back down, don't flinch. In this economy, probably most of in this room are in about the same boat."Caldwell(on New England series) "There have been a lot of great games. There have been a lot of great challenges up there (in Foxborough). We've battled against them, played hard, played well and been disappointed also. Down here (in Indianapolis), we've had some great, great match-ups, some great come from behind victories. There are a lot of them that stick out in my mind. I don't know if I just label one. There are a lot of them that are very, very good."Caldwell(on how New England offense creates problems) "In every way. Those two tight ends are just absolutely unbelievable, because they give you so many huge match-up problems. (Rob) Gronkowski and (Aaron) Hernandez, both guys can run, they're tall, but then (Wes) Welker just gives you another different dimension. He's quick and elusive. Then they run guys in and out at the running back position, between (Danny) Woodhead, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and the whole bunch of guys that they run back and forth in there. They certainly give you a lot of issues on the outside, on the flanks. I think last week (Chad) Ochocinco did not dress, and that goes to show you (their depth), he's a good player and he can run. They have kind of different ways they attack different teams, and they utilize their personnel as well as anybody. If they see that you're adjusting one way, then they'll come out and give you other formations that may give you some other difficulties to get the match-ups that they want. They can strike you in so many ways, and (Tom) Brady's playing extremely well, 28 touchdowns at this time. He's spreading it around and doing a nice job, and they're running the ball pretty well. They can put pressure on you (with) no huddle, quick-count, hard-count, they do it all." Dan Orlovsky(on avoiding distractions this week) "Distractions are what you allow them to be. If don't allow it (changes this week) to be a distraction, it won't be. I think most of the guys understand it's a difficult profession. Sometimes decisions like that get made, whether (it's) coaches or players. You move on. It sounds kind of harsh, but it's a reality in our world. I think most of us are just focused on the game this weekend and really just practicing today and preparing. We know what we're up against. It's a really good football team. I think most guys will be focused on that." Orlovsky(on New England defense) "I think they're playing really well. A lot of people have misleading stats on them. Stats are stats. When your offense is putting up 30 points a game and you're playing with a two- or three-touchdown lead for most of it, teams are going to throw the ball and you're going to potentially be a little more conservative just to run the clock. They're playing well. They're big in the middle. They have two guys on the edge who can rush the passer well. I think they try to put themselves in situations to get into those situations. (Jerod) Mayo's kind of the quarterback of the defense. I think there's been a lot of noise made about their secondary. I think their secondary is playing well. I think they're coming along. They put themselves in the position to be successful against Philly last week. It's a challenge for us, absolutely." Orlovsky(on if he carries burden of being with 0-16 Detroit in 2008) "Honestly? No. I've moved on. I love football. I work as hard as I can at it. It's important to me, but it's not what I really use to say who I am. Did it stink and do I ever want to be a part of it? No. Do I consider myself a competitor and winner? Yes. I think I've moved on from it, for sure. It's not like I see people on the street and they point at me. I'm sure there are people who make comments here or there. I don't have too much time (to think about it)." Adam Vinatieri(on facing New England) "I think it's always special any time you can step on the field. No matter if it's a team that you've played for before, any time you can step out on the field and walk out onto a field and play a game that you love it's always a lot of fun. I think there's a little bit of special feelings there for me going back there and playing but at this point, it's all about trying to get a win." Vinatieri(on rivalry is diminished this year) "Maybe for the fans, the media and all that kind of stuff, but I think both teams enjoy beating the other team. I think they'll be prepared and ready to play us, and so will we. We obviously know how great of a team they have, the weapons that they have on offense and all that stuff. We're going to try to get a win, and I'm sure in their mind, they're going to try to beat us as well. I think there's still a pretty good, respected rivalry between the two teams." Dwight Freeney(on QB-Tom Brady) "It's definitely going to be a challenge. New England hasn't changed as far as them not being themselves. Brady is kind of controlling that offense. They're doing a great job of execution. They throw the ball a lot. They throw it quick. Sometimes, they take their time. Sometimes, they block seven guys on four, sometimes they don't. It's going to be interesting. They're definitely showing signs of (the) New England of old, kind of dink-and-dunk and throwing that ball." Freeney(on if New England is anxious to play Colts) "I think they have kind of the same philosophy that we have. It doesn't matter what our record is, it doesn't matter, you're going out there and preparing for this particular team as if it's the biggest game of the year. I know I've heard them talk about it. I know I've played against them. I understand that is their mentality. They're not going to lay down. They're going to come out there full force." Freeney(on outside perception that New England will score a lot) "I think defensively whenever you step on the field, I don't care what it is, we take everything kind of personally, 'What do you mean you're going to score 17 points? No, you're not.' That's our mentality. … Obviously, they score points, and they score them in bunches. We're not laying down for anybody. We're going to go out there and continue to play hard." Freeney(on QB-Tom Brady) "He's a real, special player. Players like that don't come along that often. His career is indicative of that. You see the numbers he puts up. You see the respect he gets across the league. He's definitely a talent. It's definitely going to be a challenge." Freeney(on New England's Bill Belichick) "He's another guy who doesn't come along very often. He's his own kind of guy, love him or hate him. One thing he does is produce wins. He has a lot of winning seasons. He comes up with great schemes to put his players in the best position to win. Obviously, you see that year in and year out, the records they have and the type of things they can do." Freeney(on if Colts and Patriots organizations maximize talent) "Absolutely. I think they do. The Patriots have been doing it for a very long time. We've done it for a long time. Obviously, this year is a little bit different, unfortunately. Every team has a down year. They had a couple of down years when they didn't make the playoffs. … They definitely put their players in great positions." Freeney(on where New England rivalry will rank for him after retiring) "It probably will be (number) one, I'll be honest with you. Just the history, especially for me, I go home (to Connecticut) to that stuff. I go home and the whole state is New England Patriots fans, the other half is Giants and Jets. It's like you have to go home and you have to hear it. All the meaningful games, very meaningful games either win or loss, it's just been great memories, and so much you're going to remember." Pat Angerer(on what changes could be expected on defense with coordinator change) "Hopefully, we'll be better. We've all got to play better. We've all got to play like our jobs on the line, because we haven't won a game, and it (jobs) really is on the line." Angerer(on if players will play as if jobs are on the line) "When you're 0-11, you've got to play like your job is on the line, because it should be (on the line). What have we done to not have it on the line?" Jerraud Powers(on New England rivalry) "It's one of those games where it's obvious that the rivalry is there. Let's just say that the rivalry is so intense that nobody is going to take it easy on anybody, no matter what the situation is. That's just how rivalries go, and we're going to have our hands full. Tom (Brady) being Tom (Brady) once again, (Rob) Gronkowski is doing a tremendous job (and with Aaron) Hernandez, Deion Branch and Wes Welker, you've got a list of targets that (Tom Brady) can go to. (They have a) tremendous offense, and I think there defense is turning things around and playing way better than what I think they were playing in the first (half) of the year. It's going to be another tough match-up." Powers(on WR-Wes Welker) "I think he plays the game the way it should be played. Every play, he plays as if it's his last play. He blocks when it's (a) run, he's blocking his tail off. When it's (a) pass, he's going 100 miles an hour, even if he's not the number one target or the first read. He plays every play like it's his last (one), and I think that's why he separates himself from the other receivers." Powers(on WR-Wes Welker) "(He's) definitely a guy who plays with a chip on his shoulder. It's obvious he knows he's not the biggest guy. He knows he's not the fastest guy, but hard work can overtake all those attributes. He does a tremendous job in working his craft, doing whatever he can to get better. He proves it on the field every Sunday." Powers(on when he gets frustrated) "My thing is every game we've been in it to win, we've found a way to shoot ourselves in the foot. It's the same thing every week. We just have to find ways not to beat ourselves in the close games we've been in, and there have been a few. That's when I get frustrated. When a team beats us and they're better than us, you can live with that. When you have an opportunity to win and we continue to shoot ourselves in the foot, that's when you get a little frustrated." Powers(on struggling now after two winning seasons to start career) "If you grew up not listening to the outside critics and (you're) never too high, never too low and always in the middle ground, you're fine. That's sort of how I approach things. Even though we're in the situation we're in, I never let anybody outside this locker room or outside our staff get to me about how they feel and how we should feel and what we should do. I don't let any outside distractions get to me, basically." Powers(on if there were no frustration on team, would that be bad) "Exactly. There are a lot of frustrated guys in the locker room. Guy are going to continue to come in every day, work hard and do whatever we can to get this thing turned around. If guys weren't angry with the situation we're in, I'd be more worried. You see guys frustrated, but you see guys still come in here and working hard. It shows the type of leadership we have in the locker room and will of the guys to whatever they possibly can to get it turned around." Fili Moala(on New England challenges) "The thing about a Bill Belichick-coached team is that they're very well prepared. They know their assignments. They're very heady players and savvy players at that. It's really going to come down to who is going to perform, who is going to do their job, be where they need to be and execute their responsibilities." Moala(on team's frustration level) "If I told you there was no frustration, I'd be lying. The thing with that is everyone cares. Everyone in this locker room, we all support each other. We all encourage each other daily to improve. That's what it's all about. As soon as there is any kind of separation in this locker room, that's when you can chalk it up, break it down and put it away in a box. We're not going to win (if that ever happens). As far as teammates, we support each other. I feel like there is a little frustration, but nothing that will separate any of us." Moala(on if there can be healthy frustration) "That's the frustration I'm speaking of. Guys want to win. It's not like guys have just thrown in the towel. That's what is it (healthy). That (bad frustration) doesn't exist in this locker room. We're all still very hungry, still very competitive. I know that before this season is over, we'll put something together." Moala(on team being close) "It only matters in horseshoes, so they say. It's all about winning here. That's the way it's always been. That's the way it's always been everywhere I've been, and that's especially true here. There is no such thing as moral victories. It's nice that people are improving. That's what you want but as long as you have the goose egg in the win column, all that's for naught. We'll just keep improving and doing our best." Jeff Saturday(on mid-week conference call about New England Owner Robert Kraft and the hug they shared at the end of the lockout) "I felt very honest and heartfelt about it. It came out to be something to other people, but to me it was more of a heartfelt gesture. I (have) my wife and kids at home and I can't imagine going through something as stressful as the lockout was, on top of having an illness that you know is as serious as it was for his wife. I had a ton of respect for what (Kraft) was doing. He did a lot to help get the thing (lockout) solved, but on top of that would go home and spend time with his wife regularly. … Obviously, we've had some enormous battles and some games that meant a ton to our game. At the end of the day when we're not on the field, we're all working to get our league better. … I think our man-hugs are probably done. I think we'll go to handshakes from this point on."