To hear Peyton Manning dodge questions about Colts owner Jim Irsay is sort of like family members tiptoeing around the fact that your crazy uncle is, in fact, crazy. Yet here we are, days before Peyton returns to Indianapolis, where he spent 14 years and brought Irsay a Super Bowl following the 2006 season.
It all started when Irsay defended his decision to dump Manning after the 2011 season and draft Andrew Luck. It didn't help that Irsay said he was disappointed with only one Lombardi Trophy. This development didn't sit well with former Colts president Bill Polian, who said this week that he didn't "know what to make" of Irsay's remarks.
Broncos coach John Fox did, however, calling them "a cheap shot," and adding that Irsay sounded 'ungrateful and unappreciative' of his time with Manning.
Predictably, the topic came up during a Wednesday conference call between Manning and reporters. And predictably, Manning was tight-lipped.
"I don't have anything to say about either one of those," he said, referring to Irsay's remarks and Fox's follow-up.
But Manning slightly more forthcoming with the Indianapolis Star's Bob Kravitz, who asked him point-blank, "Do you bear any ill will or resentment toward the Colts?"
"To answer a question like that doesn't serve me well," Manning admitted. "I feel like the question is based on the (Irsay) comments, so it's just easier not to answer anything along those lines."
Manning's right, even if privately he's seething.
And whatever Irsay's intentions (he later explained -- via Twitter, naturally -- that if the Colts had better special teams and defenses with Manning there would have been more championships) he's unwittingly introduced the Colts to a world of pain come Sunday night because Manning will be even more motivated to stick it to the man who thought his career was over.
"I guess it could be (a challenge to stay focused during the pre-game tribute)," Manning told the Star. "I think it's an individual thing. I remember when Tony (Dungy) went back to Tampa. But it's not like he coached any harder that week, or different … I hope I can rise to the challenge because to say this is unique is a fair statement.
"It's hard to predict how I will feel emotionally. I just don't know," he continued. ... "One thing that kind of helped me, I stopped trying to compare age, where was I when I was 28 or 33. Last year just was frustrating, really difficult.
"But now I feel like I can compare myself to 2012," Manning said. "And I have made some improvements. Some are the same as last year and will always be different from before I was injured. But now I've got a baseline to compare. Some of it has to do with physical improvement but more of it has to do with comfort, with a new offense, a new coordinator; now there's more familiarity."
And also more motiviation.