Monday, January 30, 2012
Jim Irsay wants focus on game
ESPN.com news services
INDIANAPOLIS -- Jim Irsay did his own politicking Monday.
Instead of talking about Peyton Manning and the franchise quarterback's future in Indianapolis, the Colts owner quickly tossed the football to a real politician.
"When I was asked about Peyton, I was going to say why don't you ask Mitch (Daniels) about his presidential run? Any comments Mitch?" Irsay said drawing laughter as he turned to the Indiana governor.
Irsay's diversionary tactic didn't work.
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With the Manning-Irsay spat still dominating talk around town, Irsay tried to deflect attention away from this week's biggest distraction and put the focus squarely back on the Super Bowl matching the New York Giants against the New England Patriots.
"I'm not talking about Peyton this week," Irsay said as more than a dozen reporters followed him through the media center's hallways. "When Peyton and I talked (last week), we both thought the focus should be on the Super Bowl. We want to focus on the Super Bowl."
Yes, getting the game in Indy was a major coup for Irsay, who pushed the city to bid twice for the big game and lobbied fellow owners to give his home city its first Super Bowl.
But as the world turns in Indianapolis, Super Bowl week just happens to come at the most tumultuous time in Indy's ongoing soap opera.
Since finishing 2-14 and earning the first pick in April's draft, Irsay has fired vice chairman Bill Polian, general manager Chris Polian, coach Jim Caldwell and most of Caldwell's assistants. He's hired 39-year-old Ryan Grigson as the new general manager and former Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano as his new coach.
"(Peyton) was kind of hurt to see those people in the organization leaving, and I think that's what he was expressing," Peyton's father Archie told ESPNNewYork.com's Ian O'Connor. "The way Jim reacted to it, I didn't quite understand it. But I knew this would not turn into a verbal war. Jim has been good to Peyton, and Peyton has been good to Jim. They're good friends and they called each other and that was the end of it."
Last week, after Peyton Manning went public with his complaints about the dour atmosphere at the team's complex, Irsay retorted with his own public rant -- calling Manning a "politician" and contending he had been "campaigning."
The two tried to put an end to the spat Friday by issuing a joint statement that essentially said they had spoken and reconciled.
It didn't slow the speculation about Manning's future. The September neck surgery that forced Manning to miss the season was his third in 19 months.
Irsay has indicated he won't risk Manning's long-term future by putting an unhealthy quarterback on the field, and even Manning's old friends seem to be concerned about his health.
"It would be hard to get healthy and prove he's healthy before March," former tight end Ken Dilger said referring to the deadline for Indy to pay Manning a $28 million roster bonus or risk losing him as a free agent. "It's going to be hard, really hard."
Daniels and Indy Mayor Greg Ballard both got caught up in the discussion, too, though they managed to stay away from discussing Manning's plans.
"To have Peyton Manning be the caring guy that he is, we are so lucky to have him, and we are so lucky to have Jim Irsay as an owner," Ballard said. "How all this plays out doesn't really matter to me."
And Irsay contends there's time to discuss all that -- after the Super Bowl.
"Peyton is everything you dream about as an owner, getting that type of player," Irsay said. "I have just been so blessed with all that he's done for this franchise."
Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Ian O'Connor and The Associated Press was used in this report.