Irsay adds to Colts' soap opera

Colts owner Jim Irsay speaks to the media at the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans, La., March 21,...

Colts owner Jim Irsay speaks to the media at the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans, La., March 21, 2011. (SEAN GARDNER/Getty Images/AFP)

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:54 PM ET

TORONTO - Jim Irsay and Peyton Manning continue to play their game of “He loves me! He loves me not!”

The Indianapolis Colts owner concluded a confounding week on Sunday by denying a Saturday night NFL Network report that he had decided several weeks ago to make Manning a free agent. That broadcast cited sources involved in the Colts’ signing of new general manager Ryan Grigson.

Irsay backtracked Sunday in a Twitter posting, saying that the quarterback: “Hasn’t been released nor was a decision reached weeks ago.”

But what might be most interesting is what Irsay didn’t say. Despite his protests, Irsay still hasn’t confirmed that he’ll pay Manning’s $28-million bonus and that he’d definitely keep him in Indianapolis.

Irsay’s tweet follows an interview in which he seemed to be building fans up for the possibility that the four-time MVP’s time in Indianapolis is past.

“It’s your responsibility to not make decisions for sentimental reasons,” Irsay said about Manning’s option bonus. “This isn’t fantasy football.” Irsay has also acknowledged he would pick Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, even if Manning is healthy.

The more he speaks, the more it sounds like Irsay has decided to let Manning walk, and all Sunday’s denial does is to cap a week of conflicting statements, Manning’s expression of dissatisfaction, Irsay belittling his star for being “a politician”, followed by a club statement that the two had met to clear up “misperceptions”, and now the weekend with the Colts playing Hear-say, Irsay!

It appears Irsay and Manning are both attempting — and not with great success — to find a graceful public exit.

One thing is certain. While Irsay may not like to hear it, this is a team that — as Manning has suggested — is “walking on eggshells.” A franchise that long has been about continuity and togetherness is fracturing.

Irsay and Grigson are delivering such mixed messages that even the players are confused.

“I have no clue, man,” veteran receiver Reggie Wayne said. “This is one time all of the players are outside of the loop, even 18 (quarterback Peyton Manning). Nobody has a clue.”

There are 20 players, including Manning and Wayne, who can become unrestricted free agents March 13. With Irsay saying the roster needs to be “more balanced” many suspect they’re being readied for the chop.

“It’s like a soap opera. You’re wondering: ‘Okay, what’s next?’,” said Wayne. “You hear something, then you see it on the ticker, that the Colts are doing this or that. At one point we were thinking Jim Tressel was going to be the coach. All of a sudden it’s Chuck Pagano. It’s been a surprise every day,”

RALLY-HO!

An estimated 25,000 fans were at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough on Sunday afternoon for a send-off rally in advance of the AFC champion New England Patriots’ flight to Indianapolis and Super Bowl XLVI.

Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, wide receivers Wes Welker and Deion Branch, linebacker Jerod Mayo, running back Kevin Faulk and quarterback Tom Brady all addressed the crowd.

“We have the greatest fans in America, ” Brady said. “We’re going to give it our best and hopefully we have a lot more people at our party next weekend.”

HIGH SOCIETY

No matter what the final Super Bowl score is, Bill Parcells will come out a winner.

Both Tom Couglin of the Giants and the Patriots’ Bill Belichick are head coaches who trained under Parcells.

Between them they have won six Super Bowls with a seventh on the way. Belichick has three with Coughlin a win away from equalling Parcells’ two wins.

“Different guys, but the same coach, starting with the fact that they both paid their dues,” Parcells told the New York Daily News.

They share four things Parcells believes are necessary to be a successful NFL coach. “They know how to acquire players, they know how to develop the players they have, they know how to come up with a good design for those players and they both get them to play hard,” Parcells said.

QUICK HITS

Alabama defensive end/linebacker, Courtney Upshaw, who remains a potential draft pick in Buffalo, had a sack and two tackles for losses in the Senior Bowl. Upshaw is one of the college ball’s top pass-rusher with 16 sacks over the past two seasons. He’s aggressive and would bolster the Bills’ pass rush ... Steelers linebacker coach Keith Butler has an interview Tuesday in Indianapolis for the defensive coordinator position. The team is also expected to hire former Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians ... Meantime, former Colts head coach Jim Caldwell went to Pittsburgh to discuss the position formerly held by Arians ... Chargers left guard Kris Dielman (concussion) says he’s undecided whether he’ll return next season ... San Diego State QB Ryan Lindley struggled with his accuracy throughout Senior Bowl practices and in Saturday’s game was just 10-of-21 for 103 yards and an interception.

RELUCTANT HERO

It may have been the most important audible Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel will ever call in his life, and it never even happened on a football field.

Cassel is being hailed a hero, albeit a reluctant one, after alerting a neighbour in the Missouri gated community of Loch Lloyd that her house was aflame.

When his wife noticed smoke billowing from the home and flames shooting from the chimney late at night, Cassell ran to the woman’s home, banged on the door, and called until the woman answered.

“I know Matt wouldn’t want this kind of attention, but I definitely think he was a hero last night,” one witness told local television station KMBC.

The neighbour said that she had no awareness that she was in danger until she saw the quarterback on her doorstep. Serious damage was done to the house, though a fire supervisor said that the home may not be a total loss. Neighbours described Cassel as a private person and that he probably wouldn’t like the attention. They were right. Cassel declined to talk about the incident but issued a statement: “I just ran up to the house and alerted them. The real heroes are the firefighters.”

Maybe if he could keep the Chiefs from crashing and burning, he’d have a change of heart about that hero business.


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