In his weekly radio show, which once upon a time streamed on the Internet but which has since been restricted to the Indianapolis airspace, Colts Vice Chairman Bill Polian (did he ask for the most sinister-sounding title possible?) said that quarterback Peyton Manning remains on the active roster not so that he can play in games, but so that he can eventually step onto the practice field.
The Colts presumably want Peyton to practice so that they can see whether he has regained his arm strength after a pair of 2011 neck surgeries, before deciding whether to pay him another $28 million in early March 2012. The Colts presumably don’t want him to play late in the season because if he energizes the team and wins a couple of games, the Colts could screw up their shot at the next great franchise quarterback.
Though the assessment from last week of CBS and Inside the NFL analyst Phil Simms that Manning won’t “let” the Colts draft Andrew Luck borders on the absurd, Manning surely would lobby Polian aggressively to trade the pick in order to get immediate help that could deliver another Super Bowl win or two for Manning. Taking Andrew Luck won’t get Manning another ring, unless Manning gets blown up on the sideline by a modern-day Mo Lewis and Luck comes in and delivers the Lombardi.
Manning is smart enough to know that one way to block the “Suck of Luck” campaign would be for Manning to return and lift the 0-8 team out of the league’s basement. And Polian is smart enough to know that the best way to prevent that from happening is to keep Manning from playing.
The real question is whether Manning will gladly go along with the plan to get him ready to practice but not play. If/when he’s ever interviewed about the topic on camera, he’ll surely say all the right things. But if he doesn’t really believe it, it’ll be obvious from the expression on his face.