Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay plans to talk to Peyton Manning after… (Darron Cummings / Associated…)
Reporting from Indianapolis — Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts, said he plans to sit down with Peyton Manning after the Super Bowl and discuss his future with the franchise but called the quarterback's situation "a very complicated medical issue."
If they plan to keep Manning, the NFL's only four-time most valuable player, the Colts have to pay him $28 million by March 8. They have the No. 1 pick and are in position to select Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. Manning missed the 2011 season recovering from multiple neck surgeries, and reports vary on how far he has come to this point.
"When you try to consult doctors literally worldwide in terms of what are the expectations, what are the dangers, the risks, the aspects of coming back from it, no one can give you a definitive answer," Irsay said Wednesday. "It's one of those things where even some of the doctors said if this came up again that it's going to be something people are going to rely on as trying to have some sort of historic reference medically to look back on. It's very unusual. It's been going on for almost a year."
Irsay said he has watched Manning throw but declined to get into specifics or evaluate what he has seen.
"I've said from the beginning that it is a two-phase medical aspect," the owner said. "It is, can he return to play at a really high level, with what his expectations are? That is the only level that he wants to be. Can he drill it in Foxborough in January when it's 10 degrees outside for 50 yards? Is he going to be back to the Hall of Fame level that he expects to play at? I think the second issue has always been the health and the risk of going back onto the field. So I think there are two separate issues, and they are complicated issues."
Asked if he would be willing to push back the March 8 deadline, Irsay said: "Anything is possible if two parties choose to get together with him. So I don't think that is something that is impossible by any stretch."
When Manning wanted to talk after the season, he reached out to Bob Kravitz, a highly respected sports columnist for the Indianapolis Star.
It was to Kravitz last week that Manning said, in referring to the Colts' practice complex: "I'm not in a very good place for healing, let's say that. It's not a real good environment down there right now, to say the least. Everybody's walking around on eggshells. I don't recognize our building right now. There's such complete and total change."
Kravitz believes Manning's 14-year run in Indianapolis is at an end, and that the city is slowly coming to grips with that.
"I think we're going through the five stages of grief here just as we did when we heard Peyton was going to be out for the season," he said. "For the longest time, people were in total denial. Now there's some anger, people saying the media's trying to run Peyton Manning out of town, and we're slowly moving into acceptance.
"Financially, bringing back Peyton Manning doesn't make any sense. Competitively, it doesn't make any sense. The Peyton Manning era is done in Indy, and the only thing you root for is, is he going to be healthy enough to play somewhere else? Although there are going to be a lot of people who'd much rather see him retire than go somewhere else."
New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora was fined $20,000 by the NFL on Wednesday, a few hours after he missed a mandatory morning media session.
"I misunderstood the schedule," Umenyiora said in a statement released by the team. "It won't happen again, and I will be at tomorrow's media session and available after the game. I apologize for any inconvenience my absence this morning may have caused."
Shifting into gear
The Giants had the 32nd-ranked rushing game this season, but that's of little comfort to New England nose tackle Vince Wilfork. He knows how teams can change their personality in the postseason.
Besides, when the Giants beat the Patriots earlier this season, New York's Ahmad Bradshaw wasn't playing. Now he is.
Wilfork said the Giants' running game is "probably one of the biggest threats" of Super Bowl XLVI.
"When you have three backs who can run the ball, you get 10 carries apiece from those guys," he said. "That's 30 carries, and [Brandon] Jacobs, [D.J.] Ware and Bradshaw, those are some tough runners. I've faced all of them, and every last one of them is a tough runner.
"I think defensively, for us to be successful, we're going to have to slow it down. If they come out and run the ball and we can't stop them, we're going to have a problem."
Wilfork, a mountain listed at 6 feet 2 and 325 pounds, is plenty athletic too. He's no Blake Griffin, but he can dunk a basketball, which surprises some people.
"People look at me and are like, 'He's a butterball. He can't,' " Wilfork said.
Butterball? To his face? Unlikely.