Peyton Manning returns to Indy

Updated: May 5, 2012, 8:58 PM ET
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- Andrew Luck's first full weekend in Indianapolis already has given him a glimpse into what rookie life will be like.

He's getting acclimated to a new locker room, new teammates and a new playbook, all while contending with the seemingly impossible job of replacing one of the city's biggest sports icons, Peyton Manning.

Manning He's a great player, a great kid and he'll fit in perfectly. ... Andrew attended our camp and that's what I think is really the reason he was the first pick, because of all the great coaching he got down there.

-- Peyton Manning on Andrew Luck

Welcome to Indy, kid.

The kickoff officially came Saturday night, when Luck's second day of rookie workouts at the Colts complex was upstaged by Manning's return to Indianapolis.

It's not the first time Manning has returned to the city he called home for 14 seasons, but it's the first time he's been back since the Colts started holding offseason workouts, and it's a stark reminder of the pressure the No. 1 overall draft pick will face in 2012.

"He's a great player, a great kid and he'll fit in perfectly," Manning said of his successor. "I reach out to most of the rookie quarterbacks because so many of them have been to our camp at the Manning Passing Academy, so I've always kind of kept up with them. Andrew attended our camp and that's what I think is really the reason he was the first pick, because of all the great coaching he got down there."

Manning was in a playful mood before serving as the master of ceremonies for a fundraiser for the Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent.

While he joked with reporters about everything from his new digs in Denver to how the NFL's new offseason rules benefit teams such as the Colts that have new coaches, Manning took a serious tone when it came to the hospital that bears his name and the people that would be recognized during the celebration.

In the previous four years, the gala raised $3.4 million, and this year could be the best yet

The list of items on this year's auction block included a collage of autographed baseballs from Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams; two guitars, one signed by Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney, the other by the Rolling Stones; a clipping from a contract signed by Marilyn Monroe; an autograph of Mother Teresa; a signed Johnny Unitas jersey and an autographed photo of five American presidents -- George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon.

And Manning intends to stick around and keep doing this kind of work in Indy.

"Peyton is no longer a Colt, but he's been on our team since 1998 and he will continue to be on our team," said Vincent Caponi, CEO of St.Vincent Health.

For Luck, it's a tough proposition.

While he has acknowledged it would be foolish to measure himself every day against what Manning did on the field, that's precisely what the public will do.

Those inside the Colts complex seem to know what's coming this fall, too. After new Colts coach Chuck Pagano said Saturday that somewhere in the Colts' locker room, they will find the next Dallas Clark or the next Joseph Addai, he was asked whether that also meant finding the next Peyton Manning in the locker room.

"Just like the other guys, that guy (Luck) is going to be one of the building blocks," Pagano said. "I think he's already said it. Do you ever replace a guy like that? No. But is he going to try to be as great as that guy (Manning) was or win as many games as that guy did? Yes."

Off the field, it will be just as difficult for Luck.

Earlier this week, Manning returned to Indy to receive an award from the Boy Scouts and to present a scholarship to a local high school student. Then, Friday night, Manning attended the dedication of a room at the children's hospital in honor of two-time Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon, who was killed in an IndyCar crash in October.

All of that took place while Luck was in lockdown mode on the west side of town.

"I've got a long way to go, but it is fun," Luck said, referring to the playbook. "It is a fun challenge for me. I think it is starting to hit home a little bit. Applying it is a little easier out on the practice field, but there is a long way to go."

Manning was released March 7 after he missed the entire 2011 season because of a nerve injury that caused weakness in his throwing arm. Eventually, the only four-time MVP in league history signed with Denver.

So far, things seem to be going well and he promised to be ready for Denver's season opener Sept. 9 against Pittsburgh.

"It's fine, it's fine," he said when asked about the neck. "I feel good, I'm working hard. I kind of feel like a rookie again, but unfortunately, I don't think you're allowed to play like a rookie."

Manning said he and a group of ex-Colts teammates had dinner together in Indy on Friday night, and it looks as if some of his old pals could soon have new jobs. He said running back Joseph Addai could be headed to New England and that Clark has lined up visits to two teams, though he did not divulge which ones.

In the meantime, Luck is simply trying to get ready for the biggest challenge of his life: Replacing Manning.

"It is a barrage of information," he said. "Yeah, you are not going to get 100 percent of it, but as much as you can get it helps a lot. I am really thankful to be here and to have that sort of information overload."


Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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