Breaking Down Peyton Manning’s Return to Indianapolis

ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown Notes and Quotes: Week 7 – ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown with Chris Berman and analysts Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson, Keyshawn Johnson and Ray Lewis previewed today’s NFL games. Former Indianapolis Colts president and vice chairman Bill Polian, and former Colts center Jeff Saturday joined insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter to provide additional insight on quarterback Peyton Manning’s return to Indianapolis. Some highlights:

On what return to Indianapolis would mean to Peyton Manning …

Jackson: “… There is another emotion – anger. I find that football is a lot easier to play when you are angry. Peyton (Manning) will never show it. He will never say it. But I think he is absolutely incensed about what Jim Irsay did this week and it will show on the field for three hours.”

Carter: “I’ve had my employer tell me you can’t work for me no more. That’s hard to get over. At the end of the day that’s what the Colts did to Peyton Manning … Irsay cut him. They can play the video as much as they want to, but that’s what Peyton will remember, that they gave up on him.”

Lewis: “We’ve watched some great players leave teams. But a lot of those players went to some bad teams. Peyton Manning went to a bully already. They added extra arsenal when they added Peyton Manning. So when you talk about what Peyton Manning’s mentality is, Cris (Carter) I’m going to agree with you: ‘You cut me. Now, let me show you what I’m still worth. I’m still setting records, I’m still doing what I’m doing and I’m coming back into my old home’ … He’s an assassin on the field. You just don’t do that type of player like that and not expect him to react.”

Polian and Mortensen on Manning’s return to Indianapolis:

Polian: “… Ultimately, it is about conquering adversity. Peyton Manning has done it throughout his career. You (Chris Mortensen) and I know what he looked like during the recovery from that catastrophic injury – you wouldn’t have bet five cents that he would have come back. But he did, because of his indomitable will. That is what he brings to this game, that’s what he brought to the franchise, that’s what he brought to the National Football League and we are all better for it.”

Mortensen: “One of the things that Jim Irsay said this week, which caught me off-guard, is that he told Jarrett Bell of USA Today, Peyton told him ‘you should draft Andrew Luck.’ As I recollect my conversation with Peyton Manning, he was saying, ‘you should draft me. You should draft me to play for at least the next four years.’

“Now, I’m going back to December before they released Peyton Manning. I remember having a conversation with Jim Irsay and Jim saying ‘I’m not going to make the same mistake my dad made when he traded the rights away for John Elway to Denver. So, the idea that Peyton Manning was the one that drove him to draft Andrew Luck was factually wrong.”

Polian: “Forty-eight hours before I got fired, I sat down with Jim Irsay and I said, no matter what happened in tomorrow’s game against Jacksonville, whether we draft one or two, we can’t lose because we are going to get either Andrew Luck or RGIII. Either one is fine with me. I’ve done all the scouting work on both of them. Jim said, ‘I want Andrew because RG is going to get hurt, he runs too much.’ I said that’s fine by me. But keep in mind that if we win the game, you’re still getting a great quarterback and by the time Peyton is ready to retire, he’ll be ready to play.

“Also, the $28 million option bonus has been totally misconstrued. That was a placeholder designed to be renegotiated. Peyton knew it. I knew it. Jim knew it.”

On the reaction to Jim Irsay’s comments about Peyton Manning’s tenure with Colts …

Saturday: “It’s tough. Anytime you are talking about the style of football we played and we put our hearts out on the field each and every week and nobody prepared harder than Peyton Manning, nobody put more effort into winning football games for this city than Peyton Manning. So anytime you are criticized once that is over, it is difficult to take. As a player that was a part of all of those wonderful years that we played, we were all frustrated sometimes on how the playoffs went. I don’t think it needed to be relived at this point when Peyton is coming into town.”

Polian: “Our records are in the book. We did what we did. We’re proud of it. We did a lot great things. We played against great teams many times in the playoffs and won a lot of football games. We didn’t get to the Super Bowl as much as we wanted to. There’s a mural that hangs over the doorway of Lucas Oil Stadium, and I choked up when I first saw it. It says, ‘Lucas Oil Stadium, Built by Champions.’ We’re champions. No one can ever take that away from us. We wish the new group well. It is a new regime, a new style, a new system. Go get it. But there’s no need to rehash what we did. It’s in the books forever.”

Berman: “Did you take it personally, Bill?”

Polian: “Everybody did. You heard that from Jeff (Saturday) … We’re secure in what we did. We are very happy with what we did.”

Jackson: “No one generated the kind of revenue for Jim Irsay as did Peyton Manning and I’ll include, Bill Polian. No one raised the brand name more than they did. Built them a new office building, Lucas Oil Stadium, in which to work. Got that team to a Super Bowl and won it. Got them to another Super Bowl and afforded them a Super Bowl played in the city of Indianapolis. All of that combined, lined his pocket. So, for him to speak disparagingly of Peyton Manning upon his return to Indianapolis makes him a hypocrite …”

Johnson: “As an owner, I can never imagine the late Dr. Buss talking about Kobe or Magic didn’t do this or that, instead of celebrating.

Ditka: “…it was handled poorly. The guy just did a bad job. He used poor choice of words.”

Jackson: “Was it calculated?”

Lewis: “… you win a championship, that would last forever. That’s what some people fail to realize. Hey, it wasn’t Peyton’s fault. Maybe, Jim Irsay, maybe, you go back and rebuild your team structurally so you don’t have those up and down defenses that you had for so many years.” 

Polian on the Colts’ contingency plan around the decision to part with Peyton Manning …

Polian: “We had a contingency plan which worked because of the new rookie salary cap. So you could have Peyton with the $28 million option bonus renegotiated so the cap number was friendly, and you could have whoever the first round draft choice was, be it Andrew or RG, waiting in the wings, and if Peyton didn’t come back from the injury, you’ll be set. If he did come back, then the young man would wait as an apprentice for three years and we move on.

“And what we decided in August of 2011, that Peyton would finish his career, be (MLB’s) Derek Jeter, which he very badly wanted to be, would have come to pass. That plan was in place. It was just the question of deciding whether you wanted to do it or not. I was not privy to those discussions.”

On how quarterback Andrew Luck will handle the today – matchup vs. Peyton Manning and the Broncos …

Carter: “He didn’t win the Heisman Trophy his senior year, responded well to that. People don’t give his family credit as they give the Mannings. But his dad used to be an NFL quarterback and groomed him to say all the right things and do all the right things in every situation. I expect the kid to play well.”

Cris Carter’s reaction to Von Miller’s quote in the Denver Post …

After serving a six-game suspension for violating the league’s drug policy, Broncos linebacker Von Miller told The Denver Post this week, “I don’t have a substance-abuse problem …”

Carter, who had substance abuse problems during his Hall of Fame NFL career, reacted to Miller’s comment: “The one disturbing thing about that quote was that his abuse of substance led to him getting suspended. So he does have a problem …”

Schefter: “What will be the biggest hurdle that he faces going forward?”

Carter: “The biggest hurdle is not when the lights are on. The biggest hurdle is when there’s no light and you have to deal with yourself and you have to find something to fill that gap of the substance that’s been filling your life for the last five or six years. So, Von Miller, it is not what you do when people are cheering. It is what you do when no one is watching will be the difference one day, because he has that ability, he can have the gold jacket on. In those moments, he has to decide, do I want substance or, one day, do I want a gold jacket.”

On quarterback Tom Brady vs. the Jets defensive front …

Lewis: “There is no star on his defense right now and blitz schemes are so special. He has D-linemen playing linebackers.  Brady has to identify where the blitz is coming from … They are in the same Division, so they are very familiar with themselves. Brady has to pick up where people are coming from and how many times they are going to blitz him.”

Johnson: “The beauty of it is they have for linemen that can rush the passer. We all know Tom Brady doesn’t like when you don’t have to bring extra guys out of the secondary.”

Jackson: “When Brady gets hit, he is different.”