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News » Peyton facing uncertain future in Indy 2009-02-04

Peyton facing uncertain future in Indy 2009-02-04

Peyton facing uncertain future in Indy 2009-02-04
KAPOLEI, Hawaii - This Pro Bowl is all about family.

Specifically, the NFL's first family.

For the first time in the all-star game's 59-year history, two brothers will be the starting quarterbacks for opposing teams as their proud parents watch from the Aloha Stadium stands.

Peyton Manning will cherish every moment of this week leading into Sunday's contest, especially the quality time with a sibling he doesn't see often enough despite what television commercials may infer.

"It's not like he and I spend a lot of time together after the season ends," said Manning, referring to his younger brother and New York Giants star Eli. "So this is special."

Manning also has a special bond with his football family at the Indianapolis Colts. But domestic upheaval has Manning wondering what awaits when he returns to the mainland.

There's a new patriarch in Indianapolis, with offensive assistant Jim Caldwell being promoted to replace retiring head coach Tony Dungy. Named Dungy's heir apparent in 2007, Caldwell already has changed the tribe's dynamic by firing assistant coaches that include coordinators on defense (Ron Meeks) and special teams (Russ Purnell).

Two of Manning's Colts kin -- wide receiver Marvin Harrison and center Jeff Saturday -- may be outcast next.

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Splitting with either would break Manning's heart.

"The worst part about football for me has been losing guys that are great teammates you're friends with," Manning said after Tuesday's AFC Pro Bowl practice. "You can't play with the same guys forever. The business side comes into it. That's coming into play now.

"You hope everything works out for these guys as individuals with contracts and for the team. I really hope both are back."

Regardless, Manning knows he must deal with the dynamic of a new head coach for the first time since Dungy replaced Jim Mora in 2002.

Over the past seven seasons, Manning won his first Super Bowl, three NFL Most Valuable Player awards and six consecutive AFC South titles. He didn't want Dungy to leave.

When he received the news on a Mississippi deer-hunting trip in mid-January, Manning thought Dungy was calling to say he was staying after considering retirement. Unlike in 2007, no dice.

"I knew it was coming at some point, but I didn't think it would be this year," Manning said. "I really thought he was going to say, 'Let's get ready for next year.' I was a little surprised.

"We had a good conversation. We laughed about the special times and I thanked him. I'll always be indebted for what he did for my career and our team."

Manning also has a strong relationship with Caldwell, the former Wake Forest head coach who joined the Colts as part of Dungy's first staff. Manning even says that Caldwell's understated style reminds him of Dungy.

"He's very patient and thorough in his preparation," Manning said. "He doesn't make rash decisions. He's very meticulous, which I like being somewhat the same guy, but he has a very quiet toughness to him.

"He's not going to be a yeller and screamer, but in his own way, is a very tough guy who's going to want things done his way. If you don't do that, he's going to pat you on the back as you're walking out the door. In his own way, he can be very quietly cold if he has to be."

Added Colts Pro Bowl wide receiver Reggie Wayne: "It's going to be a different look. Hopefully, he can come in and keep everything going the way it was going. But he's the head coach. You can expect some changes."

That includes changes to Caldwell himself.

"I know what he was like for me as quarterbacks coach," Manning said. "He knew where he was on the ladder in the chain of command. He was never going to overstep (offensive coordinator) Tom Moore's boundaries. Now that he is the head coach, he has no boundaries. It's going to be an adjustment for me as well.

"The thing that's important for everybody to realize is that he's not an interim. It's not a one-year hiatus for coach Dungy and he's filling in. He's the head coach. I know coach Dungy has had an influence on him. But if this is going to work, he's got to do things his way."

Caldwell has no reason to tinker with Manning himself. The quarterback was the catalyst for the team's midseason surge, leading nine consecutive victories after an uncharacteristic 3-4 start.

Manning is staying in the presidential suite at the NFL's Pro Bowl hotel, a well-deserved privilege reserved for the MVP winner. He finished the season with 4,002 passing yards, a 66.8 completion percentage, 27 touchdown tosses and just 12 interceptions in 555 attempts.

It's scary to think the damage Manning could have inflicted were he healthy the entire season. But the effects of offseason knee surgery that lingered from training camp into October did have one positive effect.

"It was different for me to have to go through some rehab and miss practice," said Manning, who did keep his streak of 176 consecutive starts intact. "I'd never done that before. You never quite know how you're going to respond to that until you go through it.


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Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: February 4, 2009

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