The “good” news keeps rolling in for the Indianapolis Colts as the NFL lockout nears an end. Last weekend featured a player arrest and news that first-round pick Anthony Castonzo won’t be a starter, and quarterback Peyton Manning is making negative headlines for his roll as a plaintiff in the players’ lawsuit against the owners. Most of the downer tidbits shouldn’t concern us too much at this point, but Bob Kravitz reports this morning in the Indianapolis Star that Manning won’t be ready to practice when training camp opens, presumably on July 31. In fact, Kravitz suggests that Manning could be sidelined for the duration of camp.
Manning is recovering from another neck surgery (the first was in March 2010) and has already spent more than the expected 6-8 weeks rehabbing. The rub is that he hasn’t been able to work with the Colts training staff who helped him prep for past seasons, and he has played up this fact in the media whenever the subject turns to his injury. I think it’s at least possible, though, that there are a couple of reasons to believe the neck doesn’t account for the full story.
First, Manning may very well become a free agent when the new CBA is in place later this week, and he would be highly motivated to avoid further injury while he’s negotiating a new deal with the Colts (no, they won’t let him walk). As much as he wants to win, and as much as the Colts love him, I expect both sides to use whatever leverage they can to get the most favorable deal possible.
The second factor is simply that Manning is getting older, and training camp, by all accounts is grinding. We may be witnessing the phase of his career where he goes into Brett-Favre mode and finds a way to report later and later (or not at all) to camp each year. Favre made it work pretty much every year, and Manning probably could, too, although his game is a bit more complicated that the Gunslinger’s was.
Cynical views aside, every snap that Manning misses in camp will push the Colts further in the wrong direction. That first game with the Texans will be here before we know it.