By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
Sports Illustrated senior NFL writer Peter King is among the few in the national media not sounding panic alarms over Peyton Manning’s ongoing recovery from offseason neck surgery.
The reason? King doesn’t believe the Indianapolis Colts quarterback will miss a day of work when it counts.
“My gut feeling is that he’s not going to miss any time, but it is definitely an X-factor,” he said. “And nobody seems to really know (when Manning is coming back). I mean, (center) Jeff Saturday tells me he’s going to be there opening day. So I think he probably will be.
“I think one of the things in a case like this is that you have to just look at Manning’s history. I’ve always believed he wants to be Lou Gehrig more than he wants to be Babe Ruth. He wants to be the guy who’s there every week. He’s Cal Ripken. And so I think he’ll be there opening day.”
If Manning isn’t there the Colts obviously could find themselves in a world of trouble.
In two career games, back-up quarterback Curtis Painters has completed 28.6 percent of his passes with no touchdowns and two interceptions. He didn’t win over many hearts or minds by throwing an interception to end his first drive in Saturday’s preseason opener at St. Louis.
“That’s one of the reasons why I think this game this week is so important for Curtis Painter,” King said. “He’s got to show the team that, if for some reason Manning misses a week or two, he’s good enough to play.”
Assuming Manning is healthy, King sees no reason why the Colts can’t continue their march into the NFL history books.
Indianapolis has made the playoffs in nine consecutive seasons, tied with the Dallas Cowboys for the longest streak of all time.
King said the roster has undergone no major changes, and he’s a big fan of one of the few new faces in the mix.
“I love the pick of (left tackle Anthony) Castonzo,” he said. “I think it’s fantastic. Of all the linemen in this draft, he’s going to give them the best chance of a guy to play opening day and to play well.”
But the road to Lucas Oil Stadium for Super Bowl XLVI is crowded.
King correctly predicted the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers would meet in last year’s title game, but he currently has no confidence in picking this year’s NFC and AFC champions.
“I said to myself I’m not going to pick until I finish my camp trip which is still a week away,” he said. “This will be the hardest year I’ve had, I’m positive. Because I’ve seen four or five teams in the NFC that I could pick any one of them. And I saw the Patriots and the Jets and the Steelers, the Ravens (in the AFC). You could make an argument for any one of those. And, any time that Peyton Manning lines up healthy, with a full complement with him, you can never count him out. I’m extremely befuddled right now.”
This year’s camp has taken on special meaning for King.
He put out a request on his Twitter account (@SI_PeterKing) for a bus he might be able to use in his travels. A friend at the USO delivered.
So King has traveled the country this summer on the USO Mobile, with Sports Illustrated footing the bill, and is taking troops from military bases to meet the local teams. Logistics made it impossible for King to bring troops to Colts camp, but troops recently were welcomed on the field in Kansas City.
“(Head coach) Todd Haley had the guys go out, these airmen from a local Air Force base, let them hold the blocking sleds while the (Chiefs) were pushing them all over the field,” King said. “And then other guys held the pads where the (players) ran through the gauntlet. You got these guys over there trying to knock (running back) Jamaal Charles down. It was just fun.”
The troops’ presence has made for good company, and King will take 270 with him today to the Tennessee Titans’ camp in Nashville.
“Usually, I’m in my own little world on this trip,” he said. “It’s done me a great deal of good to see these troops. I just think sometimes it’s easy to forget we’re in a war, whatever you feel about the war, that we’re in a war, and there are people putting their lives on the line. I’m glad to play my infinitesimally small role in trying to help people remember that.”