Manning Again Focusing Off-Season Work on Improving Timing With Young Receivers
INDIANAPOLIS – His approach to the off-season is well-known.
Peyton Manning, a four-time National Football League Most Valuable Player and the Colts' starting quarterback the past 12 seasons, has said in the past the reason for his off-season focus is simple, that the skills and timing developed in the off-season are crucial to what happens during the season.
Manning worked at his 13th veteran mini-camp on Friday.
And he said, essentially, his approach is the same:
Do whatever he can now to have a better feel for the players around him later.
"The main thing I try to work on is to try to work with the timing of the new receivers," Manning said on Friday, the first day of the Colts' mandatory three-day mini-camp, a period that will include a practice open to fans at Lucas Oil Stadium Saturday at 2:15 p.m.
Manning listed rookie tight end Brody Eldridge as a player with whom he is working, as well as second-year veteran Sam Giguere, but said working with the Colts' young, experienced players – third-year veteran Pierre Garcon, second-year veteran Austin Collie and even fourth-year veteran Anthony Gonzalez – is critical, too.
That is going on this weekend, Manning said, but it also has been an emphasis for two months.
"Everybody talks like this is a start," Manning said. "We've been here since April. This is the first time the media is allowed, but we've been working a lot on the field."
Of Gonzalez, who played just one game last season before a season-ending knee injury, Manning said, "I've had a really good off-season with Gonzalez now that he's back."
"We want to build on what we started last off-season," Manning said. "Hopefully, if we keep him healthy, he can really have a good year for us. Getting the timing down with all these young receivers, guys who were here last year and guys who are kind of in their first year – the more I can get on the same page with them the better chance we have of success."
Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell spent extensive time in his meeting with the media early Friday afternoon discussing the hours, days, weeks and months Manning spends studying in the off-season – reviewing the most recent seasons and choosing areas on which to focus in preparation for the next – and Manning said that philosophy extends everywhere on the team.
"I think we're looking to improve in all areas of our offense, whether it's red zone, third down, short-yardage, goal line," Manning said. "Every off-season, we meet at seven every morning, and study the entire offense – things we were successful at and things we struggle at. We try to build on that."
The Colts, who won a sixth AFC South title in seven years last season and a second AFC Championship in four seasons, have a chance to be improved from a year ago, Manning said.
"We certainly hope to be," he said. "That's an interesting point, because I look at (safety) Bob Sanders and Anthony Gonzalez kind of like free-agent acquisitions. They weren't there last year and people say, 'Well, they added a couple of free agents.' Well, you get Anthony Gonzalez and Bob Sanders back and a healthy (cornerback) Kelvin Hayden and some other guys who can be healthy, that's very exciting for a team.
"We still have to go out there and do it. I'm excited about the potential of this team and hopefully, we can put it to good use."
Also on Friday, Manning addressed:
• The Colts' moving training camp to Anderson after 11 years in Terre Haute: "Terre Haute was nothing but great to us as players. Everything, the supthey gave us, was outstanding. We won a lot of games there, in Terre Haute, from a training camp standpoint. Transition and change is part of it. I think our team has handled that well in the past. We're looking forward to going to Anderson. I know the fans there will be excited."
• On responding the following season following a Super Bowl loss: "I can't really speak for other teams and the struggles they went with before. I don't really get into the tendencies. I remember a couple of years ago, we had to go to Tokyo (for a pre-season game) and they said no team ever had made the playoffs after going to Tokyo. We went 14-2, so I think it's all about how you handle it as a team. I think our team has worked hard this off-season. I can't say we worked harder than we did the season before because that's an implication we hadn't been working hard every off-season. We've had another outstanding off-season with good attendance, and I think come training camp time we expect everybody to be here."
• The Colts' rookie class: "It's still early. It's still very early. People always ask, 'How'd you do in the draft?' I say, 'Ask me again in a year or two years. Give this kid a chance to develop,' but from what I've seen so far, I think these young guys are a hard-working group and guys that like to work. They're guys who have been in winning programs and we're looking forward to seeing who can help us. It may be some of the top draft choices or it may be as it has been in years past, some free agent. Every kid gets a chance to make the team."
• On the Colts' wide receiver depth with the return of Gonzalez: "We have a chance to be as deep as we ever have been at receiver." Manning compared the current group's depth to that of 2004, when the Colts had Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison, Brandon Stokley and Troy Walters. "Certainly, it has a chance to be a deep group," he said. "They're all guys who bring a little something different to the table. There's no question it's going to be good, healthy competition and I think (new Offensive Coordinator) Clyde (Christiansen) will find ways to get all of those guys on the field."