NFL teams will do anything to get an edge over opponents, even if that means bending the rules sometimes. And, according to a former offensive lineman, the Colts did just that during Peyton Manning's rookie year.
In a lengthy profile on former Indianapolis offensive lineman Tarik Glenn, the former first-round pick told the Indianapolis Star that in 1998, Manning's first year in the NFL, former offensive line coach Howard Mudd gave the offensive linemen hearing aids in order to mitigate the noise infiltrating the huddle while playing on the road.
Glenn was actually recalling a time that he managed to blow a protection for Manning -- '98 was Glenn's second season with the Colts -- and pointed out that Manning didn't have the silent count "mastered" quite yet and ended up getting sacked as a result of a miscommunication between the line and Manning.
"We were playing on the road, it might have been Peyton's rookie year, and it was really loud," Glenn said. "Peyton hadn't mastered the silent count, so [former offensive line coach] Howard Mudd had us wearing these hearing aids that were supposed to muffle the crowd while projecting the quarterback's voice.
"Peyton said, 'Hike,' and I didn't hear him. Everybody moved and I was still on the line of scrimmage. My man ran right by me. I turned around and yelled to Peyton, 'Watch out!'. He didn't hear me and he got sacked. When I got back to the huddle, I told him I had yelled. He said, 'You couldn't hear me, so what makes you think I could hear you?' I thought that was pretty funny. Peyton didn't think it was that funny at the time, but we laugh about it today."
It would be extremely difficult to figure out when this happened: Manning got sacked routinely during his rookie season. Twice during a Week 2 loss to the Patriots on the road, once in a Week 3 loss to the Jets on the road, once to the 49ers in a Week 7 loss on the road, twice in a Week 13 loss to the Ravens on the road and twice in Week 16 loss to the Seahawks on the road. Those were all probably pretty loud instances.
As noted by Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, any sort of "hearing aid" would be a very clear violation of league rules.
And because therescandal ( ), you can bet that Patriots fans are going to be pretty frothy about the idea of Manning's Colts teams utilizing hearing aids in order to make life easier in the huddle.
But this was also a theoretical scandal or incident that occurred in 1998 (and Glenn isn't even positive about that) involving players who are almost all retired, particularly the offensive linemen and the quarterback in question.
It is highly unlikely that the NFL would even consider looking into the incident. Spoiler: it won't. Although it would be interesting to find out from various Colts players whether this was something that the offensive line frequently used or if it was a one-time incident designed to assist a young quarterback adjusting to life in the huddle on the road. If it was the former, that might draw a little bit more interest from the league office, even if there is nothing the NFL can do about it 20 years after the fact.