Bill Polian: There's a smear campaign going on against Peyton Manning

The man who selected Peyton Manning with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft is now defending him.

Former Colts general manager Bill Polian, who made the decision to take Manning over Ryan Leaf with the top pick in 1998, isn't happy with the way that Manning's being treated by the media.

During an interview with The Freddie Coleman Show on ESPN radio this week, Polian said that he believes there's a "smear" campaign going on against the Broncos quarterback.

Polian's biggest problem is the 74-page court document that has been cited by many publications throughout the week. The document was put together by Jamie Naughright's legal team and only tells one side of the story.

"That document is parsed by people, excerpted by people, and they weigh in on it. That to me fits the definition of a smear. And that's what it is, plain and simple," Polian said, via CBS Boston. "It doesn't deserve any more notice than any other smear that someone would make."

Naughright is the Tennessee trainer who Manning had an "incident" with in 1996.

Manning has maintained that he was mooning Naughright. However, Naughtright strongly disagrees with that story.

In the 74-page document that was filed by her legal team in 2003, Naughright claims that Manning went way further than a simple "mooning" and stuck his "gluteus maximus, the rectum, the testicles and the area in between the testicles" in her face.

According to Polian, people are just trying to make a name for themselves by bashing Manning with a one-sided story. The original New York Daily News story that ran on Feb. 13 didn't seek comment from anyone in Manning's camp.

"It's just a question of a person who's lived a great life, great professional life, contributed to every community he's ever been in, including the University of Tennessee, where a street is named after him. Peyton Manning Way," Polian said. "And it's just an attempt to gain notoriety for others by smearing a good person, in my opinion."

Bill Polian believes that Peyton Manning's name is being smeared. (USATSI)
Bill Polian believes that Peyton Manning's name is being smeared. (USATSI)

Polian, who was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015, also has a problem with the fact that Manning was named in a Feb. 9 lawsuit filed against the University of Tennessee.

"First of all, Peyton Manning has absolutely nothing, zero to do with the Title IX investigation or alleged violations at Tennessee," Polian said. "Absolutely nothing. And to conflate the two would be absolutely wrong, and we all know it's going to happen. So let's get that right up front that he has absolutely nothing to do with whatever has happened at the University of Tennessee in this last little while."

Six women filed the lawsuit because they believe the school created a "hostile sexual environment" that favored student-athletes. Although Manning's not being sued, his 1996 incident with Naughright was listed as an example of what's wrong at the school.

As for Polian, he doesn't seem to think it's a coincidence that the 74-page document was released shortly after Manning won his second Super Bowl.

"I am not aware of how that suit was settled or what the outcome of the suit was, and I haven't read anything about that," Polian said. "But this is a document that was an advocacy document, allegations, if you will, that were made by the person's lawyer 13 years ago about an incident that took place 20 years ago and has now surfaced obviously at the behest of that lawyer or his client when Peyton is in the news and arguably receiving lots and lots of positive press."

Naughright agreed to a $300,000 settlement with Tennessee in August 1997, so Polian may have thought the issue was behind Manning when the Colts drafted him in April 1998.

The 74-page document was part of a defamation lawsuit that Naughright filed in May 2002. The document was filed into court in October 2003 and the case was eventually settled two months later in December 2003.

However, Naughright would sue Manning again in January 2005, this time for breaking the confidentiality agreement from the earlier lawsuit. The second lawsuit was settled in July 2005.

You can read a complete timeline here, including what Manning said about the incident in a book that he co-wrote in 2001. 

CBS Sports Writer

John Breech has been at CBS Sports since July 2011 and currently spends most of his time writing about the NFL. He's believed to be one of only three people in the world who thinks that Andy Dalton will... Full Bio

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