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  • FOOTBALL

    Manning ignores Irsay comments

  • ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Thanks to the musings of his former owner, Peyton Manning's return to Indianapolis this week has turned into something less than the warm-and-fuzzy homecoming it could have been.
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  • ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Thanks to the musings of his former owner, Peyton Manning's return to Indianapolis this week has turned into something less than the warm-and-fuzzy homecoming it could have been.
    If any of that bothers No. 18, it's not showing.
    Dictating the terms of his Wednesday news conference as effectively as he orchestrates his offense from the line of scrimmage, Manning paid virtually no heed to this week's comments from Colts owner Jim Irsay, while heaping plenty of praise on his former team and its fans.
    "I don't have an answer for you on that, or any comment on that," was Manning's response to the first, predictable question of his news conference — the one asking for reaction to Irsay's comments about giving up the old Indy offense's "Star Wars" numbers in a quest for more Super Bowl rings.
    As for his 14 years in Indianapolis and the bittersweet parting Irsay engineered after Manning missed the 2011 season with shoulder and neck problems — well, Manning has no regrets.
    "I've learned that in life you need to be at peace with other people's decisions that affect you that you have no control over," he said. "That's good advice I've had over the years and it's certainly served me well in this particular scenario."
    Earlier this week, Irsay talked to USA Today about Manning's tenure in Indianapolis, which produced one title, another trip to the Super Bowl, 11 playoff appearances but seven one-and-done postseasons.
    "That leaves you frustrated," Irsay said. "You make the playoffs 11 times, and you're out in the first round seven out of 11 times. You love to have the 'Star Wars' numbers from Peyton and Marvin (Harrison) and Reggie (Wayne). Mostly, you love winning Super Bowls."
    That triggered a strong response from the usually bland Broncos coach, John Fox, who on his national radio show Tuesday called Irsay's comments a cheap shot that was "disappointing and inappropriate."
    Others chimed in, including Tony Dungy, Fran Tarkenton, Manning's former college teammate Todd Helton and his former general manager Bill Polian, all of them taking Manning's side in one way or another. With that, the game that was supposed to be a Manning love fest suddenly felt like something much different.
    But when Wednesday at the Broncos and Colts headquarters rolled around — the first real day of preparation for Sunday night's game — it was as if somebody flipped the "boring" switch back on.
    Irsay backtracked, saying his comments were taken out of context and that he'd reached out to Manning — though he didn't get a call back.
    "He's a historical icon and a great friend and I know what he's meant to our organization. My respect for him is immense," said Irsay, who also referred to Manning as "the most loved Ind Colt of all time" on Twitter.
    Vikings
    Josh Freeman will be the starting quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night against the New York Giants.
    Vikings coach Leslie Frazier made the announcement after practice Wednesday. Frazier said Christian Ponder will be the backup, not Matt Cassel.
    Freeman will be the third starter in the last four games for Minnesota, assuming he makes it through the week without problems.
    Freeman was cut by Tampa Bay on Oct. 3 and signed by Minnesota five days later. The 25-year-old started 59 games over four-plus seasons with the Buccaneers.
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