Irsay fires back at Manning, calls Peyton a ‘politician’

Just as Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay is getting ready to host a big bunch of NFL people, assorted media and fans from all across the world in a week-long Super Bowl party, one begins to wonder if he's ready to kick one longtime resident to the curb.

Following the Thursday press conference announcing the hire of new head coach Chuck Pagano, Irsay fielded questions about several matters, most notably Peyton Manning's recent interview with Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star, in which Manning said that he barely recognized most of the faces in the Colts' facility after a massive front office turnover. As is his custom, Irsay pulled no punches in his response.

"I don't think it's in a good interest to paint the horseshoe in a negative light, I really don't," Irsay said. "He's such a big part of that and everything else, but the horseshoe always comes first.

"I think one thing that he's always known, because he's been around it so long, is you keep it in the family. If you've got a problem, you talk to each other. It's not about campaigning or anything like that."

Irsay seemed especially irked at Manning's contention that the quarterback was "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.''

Irsay's response? After referring to Manning as a "politician," he refuted Manning's claim that things had changed in any sort of negative fashion.

"There's not any sort of bad situation around here for healing or anything like that," Irsay said. "That's not a correct perspective. Like I said, you keep it in house, your family, you talk to each other if you have problems, and he knows that.

"We'll work it through and we'll work it through hand in hand, and we'll talk and we'll continue to talk as we get into February and get closer to the league year. That's kind of where it stands right now."

Of course, Irsay was talking about the decision that must come by March to pick up or bounce the $28 million bonus that would be paid to Manning by March 8. The quarterback, who missed the entire 2011 season with neck and nerve issues, is rehabbing to get back into full football shape … but even that process was blocked to a degree by the sweeping changes Irsay has decided upon. Along with former head coach Jim Caldwell and personnel mainstays Bill and Chris Polian, Colts strength and conditioning coach Jon Torine was recently shown the door. Torine was in charge of Manning's recovery process; or at least the part that the team was overseeing to any degree.

Irsay understands the weight of the decision to possibly cut loose the franchise's most popular and important player since Johnny Unitas — perhaps that's why Manning's take on things seemed to rub him the wrong way.

"This is about health, about long-term life, about all those sorts of things," [Irsay] said. "So that's a big weight on me.

"It's my responsibility any time you put a player on the field, that it falls to that situation. I think fans have known that this has been a very tough situation, it's been very hard on Peyton, very hard on the franchise and very hard on the fans."

For those Colts fans who want the Peyton Manning era to last forever, that reality might be more difficult … and sooner than later.

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