Bye Week Critical in Getting Ready for Super Bowl XLIV, Manning Says
INDIANAPOLIS – Peyton Manning has been here before.
And while that's the first time he and his Colts teammates can say that about the Super Bowl, Manning – the Colts' 10-time Pro Bowl quarterback – said on Wednesday although experience could be beneficial, something else is just as true.
He's no grizzled veteran when it comes to Super Bowls. He's not jaded.
And he's sure not taking the situation for granted.
"The guys who played this game three years ago are just as excited as (rookies) Austin Collie and Donald Brown," Manning said on Wednesday as the AFC Champion Colts (16-2) began preparing to play the NFC Champion New Orleans Saints (15-3) in Super Bowl XLIV at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., on February 7.
If experience hasn't made Manning immune to Super Bowl excitement, he said on Wednesday playing – and preparing for – the Chicago Bears three years ago did teach him several things.
Preparation is key, and preparation begins this week.
The Colts, after beating the New York Jets, 30-17, in the AFC Championship Game, on Sunday, had Monday and Tuesday off, then began preparations for the Super Bowl Wednesday. They will practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said this week they will prepare and game plan as if the game were being played Sunday.
The Saints, Manning said, are a complex defense that – like the Colts' playoff opponents, the Jets and Baltimore Ravens – run schemes designed to confuse.
That makes the extra time to prepare critical.
"It is a benefit to have two weeks," Manning said. "We have a lot of film to watch. To get ready for a team that shows you multiple looks, the extra time to prepare can have a benefit."
The Colts, who have made the postseason the last eight seasons, set an NFL record this season with their 23rd consecutive regular-season victories. They won 115 regular-season games in the decade of the 2000s, and their active streak of seven consecutive regular seasons with 12 or more victories also is an NFL record.
Approaching the Super Bowl, ideally, should be no different, Colts middle linebacker Gary Brackett said.
"It's a regular season game with the whole world watching," Brackett said. "Your preparation has to be what it has been on a consistent basis."
Reggie Wayne, the Colts' four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver, like Manning spoke to the media on Wednesday. And while Manning said the aim may be to be as prepared as possible before the week, Wayne said the reality is at least part of the planning will be getting done in South Florida.
The Colts will practice Sunday, with their seven Pro Bowl selections flying that afternoon to South Florida to participate in Pro Bowl ceremonies. The Colts as a team will travel to Miami on Monday, with Media Day scheduled for Tuesday and practice to begin the following day.
"We'll come in Sunday and we'll have an addition to our game plan," Wayne said, smiling. "That's the way it works (with Manning).
"You just have to be ready for it. It's been that way for nine years. It's never finalized."
Wayne and Manning each played high school football in New Orleans, and each talked on Wednesday of the significance of playing the Saints in the Super Bowl.
Wayne still has many friends in New Orleans, and with the Colts beginning the season 14-0 and the Saints beginning 13-0, he said friends of his were predicting a Colts-Saints Super Bowl midway through the season.
"They were already putting us in the Super Bowl in Week 7 or Week 6," Wayne said.
Manning, along with his brother, New York Giants quarterback, Eli Manning, have been involved heavily in philanthropic organizations in New Orleans, including contributions for relief for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Manning's father, Archie, was the No. 2 overall selection in the 1971 NFL Draft by the Saints, where he played 10 seasons. He also has worked for the Saints' radio and preseason television broadcasts.
"I haven't thought about that angle," Manning said when asked about trying to be responsible for ending the Saints' Super Bowl hopes. "It's certainly an exciting opunity for our team to be going back to the Super Bowl in Miami. I'm very excited for the city of New Orleans. New Orleans is definitely a huge part of my life, and Eli's life, and my dad's been a part of the New Orleans Saints organization for 39 years.
"We definitely have strong ties."
Manning, who this season was named the National Football League's Most Valuable Player for a record fourth time, against the Jets Sunday completed 26 of 39 passes for 377 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. The performance came against not only the NFL's top-ranked defense, but one that featured a variety of confusing blitzes and attacking schemes.
Afterward, Manning joked that he was glad there was a two-week break between the conference championship game and Super Bowl, and that he needed a rest after playing the Jets.
"I'm good mentally," he said Wednesday with a smile, adding, "It kind of took one night to kind of put the Jets to bed."
The championship game thus behind him, Manning said the coming days are equally important.
"It's the key, what you accomplish this week," he said. "Having played in the game three years ago, I can speak to how important it is to prepare. You have to try to get ready to play, then use the time next week to get even more prepared."