Colts legend Peyton Manning was back in Indianapolis this weekend in order to raise support for Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St. Vincent. Of course, since this weekend was Manning's first public trip back to Indy since his Broncos lost to the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium last October 20, he couldn't help but answer questions about the next matchup between those two teams, which was announced last week to be the NFL's Sunday Night Football national season opener - this time, from Denver.
"I had a pretty good feeling that game would be on TV. It's a tough schedule with three playoff teams [the Colts, Chiefs, and Seahawks] right off the bat and we play the Colts right at the start. They're a good team, they were right there at the end and we know they'll be an excellent opponent."
The five-time NFL MVP certainly knows from experience how tough it can be to play the Colts. His Broncos lost 39-33 in a tremendous nationally televised and emotionally-charged game last year, a game in which he was sacked 4 times, knocked down 9 times, picked off once, and forced to fumble another time. That said, Manning threw for 3 touchdowns and 386 yards in the loss on his way to a record-shattering 55 touchdown passes and 5,477 yards in the regular season. The Broncos made it to the Super Bowl last year but were demolished (not embarrassed) by the Seahawks. Denver's attempt to get back to the game this year will begin against the Colts.
Not only is it a matchup of two of the league's premier teams, two teams with Super Bowl hopes, and two of the league's best quarterbacks, it is also the matchup of Peyton Manning versus his former team. While last year's game was incredibly special and emotional with the reception of Manning at Lucas Oil Stadium, it will likely be nice to play this one at Mile High Stadium for the Broncos - but that doesn't mean it will be easy for number 18.
"Manning became such an ingrained part of the Indianapolis community that it's still hard for some Colts fans to accept he plays for Denver.
"It's not any easier for Manning.
"Before his first career game against the Colts, Manning interrupted his pregame warm-ups to mouth the words "thank you" after a two-minute video tribute played on the stadium's large video boards. Denver wound up losing 39-33.
"A couple of weeks ago, Manning and some of his ex-Colts teammates got together for a golf trip and they started texting some of their former teammates who weren't there."
While this season's game between the two teams might carry the same emotional connection that it did last time, one thing that will likely be different is that this time, Jim Irsay won't be stirring things up with comments on Peyton's "star wars numbers" with the Colts. Irsay, as you know, is currently undergoing treatment after being arrested last month. It still remains to be seen whether he will even be around the team when they travel to Denver to face the Broncos. Peyton Manning, who despite what some national media would like you to believe still has a good relationship with Jim Irsay, reached out to his friend and former boss after Irsay's arrest. Manning wouldn't divulge what he said, only stating to the media that,
"That's a private topic. It's very private and very personal."
Despite what some Colts fans would like, Peyton Manning is still a very beloved figure in Indianapolis and is still involved. And, he also will be the quarterback the Colts face in the 2014 regular season opener. Manning called the Colts a "good team" and an "excellent opponent," and he knows that it won't be easy week one. In fact, Marot reported that after Manning looked at the schedule last Thursday, he went back to the weight room to workout again, and his teammates followed (because who wouldn't follow the living legend back to another workout?).
The Colts need to be working equally as hard, because the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning won't be an easy opponent to face the first week, either.