By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
The 2013 NFL schedule will be released Thursday night, and Peyton Manning’s trip to Lucas Oil Stadium with the Denver Broncos figures to be one of the most highly anticipated matchups.
Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri has some idea of what Manning can expect.
He made a return to Foxboro, Mass., with Indianapolis in 2006 after winning three Super Bowls with the New England Patriots. The Colts won 27-20 on that November day, and Vinatieri was booed heavily throughout the contest.
He expects Manning to receive a different reaction this fall.
“I think it’s probably a little bit different of an atmosphere,” Vinatieri said Wednesday in the locker room at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. “No disrespect to any fans out there, but our fans are much more welcoming. I think that Peyton will probably get a whole lot more cheers than I did when I went back to New England.”
The Colts have welcomed back former franchise cornerstones such as running back Edgerrin James and center Jeff Saturday as opponents in recent years. The standard procedure has been to show a highlight video of the player’s Indianapolis career on the stadium’s video screens during a timeout and allow the crowd to show its appreciation.
Manning’s return, after 14 Hall of Fame-worthy seasons in the Circle City, is likely to go beyond the norm.
“I’m sure he’ll get a standing ovation right when he comes out. I would almost guarantee it,” Vinatieri said, adding it likely will feel odd for Manning to dress in the visiting locker room. “But, hopefully, after that, I know the fans still love him, but hopefully when he goes out there, they’re loud and make it hard on him. I’m sure it’ll be a lot of fun. That’ll be a pretty cool game for him and us and everybody involved.”
There has been speculation the contest could be tabbed for the season-opener of NBC’s top-rated “Sunday Night Football.” But the Broncos’ road slate is loaded with meaningful dates for Manning, including another chapter in his rivalry against Tom Brady and the Patriots and a third Brother Bowl against Eli Manning and the New York Giants.
“It would be an awful big draw if they did (schedule the game for Week 1), obviously,” Vinatieri said. “But it’s going to be a huge draw no matter what. I would expect it to be a Sunday night or a Monday night game. I would expect it to be a prime-time game. I’d be shocked if it wasn’t.”
FOUND FOOTAGE: Video of second-year quarterback Chandler Harnish’s halfcourt shot in a challenge with veteran Matt Hasselbeck has gone viral. Harnish sank the long jumper on his first and only attempt, earning $8,000 for Norwell High School’s “Dollars for Scholars” scholarship fund and handing over jersey No. 8 to Hasselbeck.
The video had been viewed nearly 90,000 times on YouTube as of late Monday evening, and Hasselbeck said the most common question he’s received is whether or not the footage has been edited. The quarterback swears the shot was legitimate, and he said further proof could be coming.
“We actually have a second camera that I’m trying to see if we can find that film just to kind of prove it,” Hasselbeck said. “Like the Grassy Knoll cameras. We had tons of witnesses. That was part of the excitement, too. They were just as excited as we were. I don’t know, I celebrated too hard, I think.”
Hasselbeck said the idea for the No. 8 challenge was mostly his, but it wasn’t well thought out. He didn’t realize Harnish was an all-state high school basketball player, and he said he’s been contacted by some of the Norwell graduate’s former teammates who said the QB’s more likely to make a halfcourt bomb than a layup.
“That was a wild deal,” Hasselbeck said. “It was a lot of fun, and it’s those kinds of things, Chandler and I had kind of this moment, but it’s those kinds of things that the team kind of comes together. It really was a crazy thing. Shoot we had a moment with the guys that were waiting to play basketball there. It was fun.”
NO STARS IN HIS EYES: Second-year running back Vick Ballard said the most common question he received from friends back home in Mississippi during the offseason was, “How does it feel to play against Ray Lewis?”
The Colts were eliminated in an AFC wild-card game against Lewis and the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens in January. But the question struck Ballard as odd. Football is football, he explained, no matter who you’re playing against.
“No because that’s when you start getting nervous,” Ballard said of becoming star-struck during his rookie season. “If you get nervous, then you don’t play good. Then you end up on the bench.”
READY TO ROLL: Second-year nose tackle Josh Chapman missed all of his rookie season recovering from a knee injury suffered during his senior year at Alabama.
But he declared himself ready for full duty Wednesday and expects to start on-field work with his teammates when offseason training activities (OTAs) begin later this spring. It’s clear the former fifth-round pick is ready to make his mark in the NFL.
“Right now, we are priding ourselves on trying to be a top-five defense,” Chapman said. “Right now, we want to stop the run. We are kind of priding ourselves on that.”
He said it was tough watching from the sidelines as the team made its unexpected playoff run last season.
“First time I’ve ever had to do that in all my years of playing,” Chapman said. “I kind of learned a lot, watching the older guys, the way they worked and the way to become a pro.”