Peyton Manning will put on his pads, jersey and helmet tonight for his first game in 579 days. The jersey will still be No. 18, but it will be a Broncos jersey.
Man, this is going to be wierd.
Manning inflicted greatness on the Colts for his 13 seasons in the league. This last year has been adventurous, to say the least, for Manning.
He first parted ways, on good terms, with the Colts. Then, he “interviewed” with a handful of teams, ultimately deciding to play for one of his idols, John Elway in Denver.
Over the summer he worked out with receivers, purchased a home, and worked to soak in his new playbook.
In training camp, media reports have been all positive. The laser arm is still there, as are the audible calls at the line of scrimmage. He even has a couple of familiar targets with him in Denver, former Colts teammates WR Brandon Stokley and TE Jacob Tamme.
Tonight, in Chicago, Manning returns for the first time after multiple “procedures.” Because its just the preseason and there are poor weather conditions in the Windy City, I don’t expect the four-time MVP to play more than a series.
Getting back on the field, in a game situation, is a big accomplishment for Manning. I was one that wasn’t sure he would ever take another snap. It’s a risk for him. He has acknowledged that he’s ready to get the first big hit out of the way — Let’s just hope it’s nothing serious.
Like others, seeing Peyton in another uniform just isn’t right. Almost one year ago, he announced a new contract with the Colts and said he was going to be with the Colts for life. Circumstances changed so that’s no longer the case.
I’ve written about it plenty of times before and I’ll say it again, the Colts did what they had to do. It wasn’t easy dropping Manning, it even brought tears to the eyes of owner Jim Irsay. But it was necessary from the Colts standpoint.
Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck has impressed everybody in training camp. Coaches have said they must be sure not to get ahead of everyone else, players say he sees the field like a veteran and former Colts coach Tony Dungy thinks Luck looks like he’s had three or four years under his belt.
What’s even more wild, to me — Luck is younger, just 22.
I’m excited to see what Peyton can do this season and beyond. Like others, I wish him nothing but the best and will watch him whenever I can. I just hope Colts fans stay Colts fans, and don’t turn from the team as they struggle through adversity. You better believe the next few years will be challenging, though, I do think they will win more than a couple games a year like some have projected.
Tonight will be cool seeing No. 18 return, but it will be odd, for all of us — Peyton fans, Colts fans and NFL fans.
It doesn’t look right and never will.
[Photo via ESPN]