Present Much More Imant Than Miami Memories, Manning Says
INDIANAPOLIS – The memory is fresh, and perhaps always will be, but Peyton Manning said as vivid as his recollections of Land Shark Stadium may be, there is something far more important this week.
What matters is now, this season.
And specifically, what matters is Monday night.
Because while Manning, now in his 12th season as the Colts' quarterback, will play at Land Shark Stadium on Monday for the first time since the Colts won Super Bowl XLI there in February 2007, the memories will not matter in a few days. What will matter? Well, Manning said . . .
There is Miami Dolphins linebacker Jerry Porter.
And, of course, defensive end Jason Taylor.
"That's plenty to think about," Manning said Thursday afternoon as the AFC South-leading Colts (1-0) prepared to play the Dolphins (0-1) at Land Shark Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Monday at 8:30 p.m.
"I have fond memories of that night a few years ago, but I think everybody has the right focus at hand right now."
The Colts have won seven of their last eight Monday Night games dating to 2003.
"Hopefully, we can continue that this year," Manning said. "This is a new year and a new team."
Said Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell, "It has a lot to do with our having good players. We have good veteran players. We have a good system that has been put in place over the years. Year in and year out, they certainly have played well."
Also Thursday, the Colts announced they have signed wide receiver Hank Baskett, who spent the last three seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles. Caldwell said early in the afternoon that wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez could be out 2-to-8 weeks after sustaining a knee injury Sunday.
"It feels good to have another veteran," Manning said. "Hopefully, we can catch him up to speed as much as possible, so if we had to put him in there to play, he'd be ready. It's a lot of offense to learn in a couple of days. He's been in a complicated system in Philadelphia, and he's a veteran. He can only help us."
Manning also said second-year wide receiver Pierre Garcon and rookie wide receiver Austin Collie will play "huge" roles Monday.
"I think it's fair to say that when you do have young guys in there, you're going to lean on your veteran players," Manning said. "There is no question that (wide receiver) Reggie (Wayne) and (tight end) Dallas (Clark) and (running back) Joseph (Addai) will be featured in the game plan. At the same time, it is the NFL. You can't draw up a play (and say), 'This ball has got to go to Dallas Clark.' Here you call it that way, but the defense gives you a different look that you might not expect.
"Pierre and Austin know they have to be ready at all times, and I believe they will. . . . I feel good about those guys being ready."
The Colts beat the Jacksonville Jaguars, 14-12, in the season opener Sunday, a victory that gave Indianapolis a one-game lead on the other three AFC South teams, but Manning said while Monday's game is not a division game, it's important for another reason.
The Colts, a playoff team the last seven years, have won five of the last six AFC South titles by being one of the NFL's better road teams. They went 41-15 on the road under former Head Coach Tony Dungy, with Monday being the first road game under first-year head coach Jim Caldwell.
The Colts went 6-2 last season on the road.
"We've got a lot of young guys," Manning said. "Coach Caldwell talked today about establishing ourselves as kind of a battle-tested road team, and what a great opportunity to start off our road test this year – down in Miami. It's their first (home) game. They'll be grumpy since they lost their first game (a 19-7 loss at Atlanta). That stadium will be rocking. It will be a great test for us.
"But to be a good team in this league, you have to win on the road."
Far more than the location or the time, Manning said the Colts' concern this week is the Dolphins, and his concern is a defense that he said features two of the NFL's most dangerous players at their positions: Porter, a four-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker who finished second in the NFL with 17.5 sacks last season; and Taylor, a defensive end and the 2006 Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
"They are a physical defense," Manning said. "They created a ton of turnovers last year. That was kind of their M.O. They had a lot of sacks. Our challenge will be protecting the ball, getting open on time and being solid in our run game and pass game. They are an excellent defense that really looks to feast on your mistakes.
"We need to be solid in what we're doing and not make mistakes that put our defense in tough situations."
THURSDAY INJURY REPORT
The Colts issued the first injury report of the week on Thursday, with guard Jamey Richard (shoulder) listed as limited participation in practice and the following listed as did not participate in practice: wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez (knee), offensive tackle Charlie Johnson (back), tight end Tom Santi (ankle) and defensive backs Bob Sanders (knee) and Jamie Silva (abdomen).