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Hint could come soon on Manning's status for opener

INDIANAPOLIS -- The former Super-Bowl champion Colts repeated -- but not in the way they wanted. When quarterback Peyton Manning underwent left knee surgery July 14 to have a bursa sac removed, the Colts were all too familiar with the procedure.

After last season, Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison underwent surgery to have the bursa sac in his knee removed.

"Exact same injury," Harrison said Friday. "Exact."

Oddly, Harrison did not offer any pointers to Manning on how to recover from it, nor did Manning come to Harrison for any advice. Harrison went through his bursa sac surgery and recovery, and now Manning is doing the same. Odd.

If it's any consolation to Manning, Harrison said he now feels considerably better than he did at any point last year and has more energy than he did in any recent season. He is running, cutting and hoping Manning soon will be able to do the same.

Colts owner Jim Irsay said in the pregame there's a "good chance" Manning plays Week 1 against Chicago, to which coach Tony Dungy added, "I've said that from Day 1."

Yet, no one around the Colts knows for sure. "We don't know when Peyton's going to be back," said Manning's backup, Jim Sorgi. "Nobody knows his status. He's a ghost around here."

Those are not comforting words to the Colts or their fans.

Anyone looking for a hint of how soon Manning might return could get it next weekend, when rosters are reduced from 75 players to 53 players. Under president Bill Polian and head coach Tony Dungy, the Colts never have carried three quarterbacks into a season. At one point during one season, they briefly added quarterback Joe Hamilton to their roster, but otherwise, the Colts always have carried two quarterbacks.

When the Colts open the season against the Bears, there's a chance they will carry three, with Quinn Gray being the favorite for that third spot and Jared Lorenzen being the underdog. If there are three quarterbacks on the Colts final 53-man, it will be a telltale sign that Indianapolis is not entirely comfortable with where Manning is at in his recovery.

And here's the other irony involving Gray. He is used to running the Colts offense from the six seasons he spent in Jacksonville. Whenever the Jaguars would play the Colts, Gray would be the quarterback of the Colts' scout team and impersonate Manning. He has been Manning for six straight years and now he might be in a situation to help back him up.

Meanwhile, Sorgi has struggled this summer to produce touchdowns and keep on weight. Behind the strength of six nutritional shakes a day, Sorgi reported to camp at 210 pounds, up from 185 last year. But his weight already has dipped to 204 pounds.

One day, before his current contract is up in another couple of years, Sorgi would like to get up to 225 pounds. But for now, he needs to concentrate on beefing up his own performance and getting the Colts in the end zone.

Coach's decisions

Bills head coach Dick Jauron and Dungy are hardly the focus of the upcoming season. But they will be throughout and after the season.

Each coach, could for different reasons, be spending his final season with his team.

Jauron is entering the final year of a contract that neither he nor the Bills have been in any rush to extend. The two sides have talked, those discussions have hardly been acrimonious, but each side prefers to wait to see how this season goes before commiting to the other for any period in the future. But for now, Jauron is in the last year of his deal.

"All you need is one," Jauron said, declining to go into specifics about his thinking.

Each side is gambling. If Buffalo has the type of season it is hoping for, Jauron will be able to walk away like the unrestricted free agent he would be. But if the Bills finish with their third straight 7-9 season, then Jauron's price likely would fall below some of the skyrocketing coaching salaries.

While the Bills have been trying to re-sign wide receiver Lee Evans, and wondering when offensive tackle Jason Peters might report, Jauron's contract has gotten zero attention. But it should. And it will. And as the season goes on, it will become more and more of an issue.

Meanwhile, Dungy also is on the clock as he has been for years. After each of the past few seasons, just like with quarterback Brett Favre, the football world has wondered whether Dungy would retire from football. Now that he is back again, so is his answer about how he will handle his future.

Two weeks after this season ends, Dungy expects to make a decision about whether he will walk away from the game. Whenever he does, Dungy is anxious to connect with young men and influence their lives.

Dungy is fully aware of how his former player, Tampa Bay linebacker Derrick Brooks, has mentored young men from the time they were in sixth grade through college. Dungy wants to do something similar.

Back in 2000, Dungy accompanied Brooks and 40 young men to South Africa and Swaziland. The group toured Soweto, traveled on a safari and even visited the prison where Nelson Mandela was held. Whether it's after this season or after next one, Dungy is going to be leading a different group of men in the years to come.

A missed tackle

Buffalo already has its most significant missed tackle of the season.

Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters, who some believe is the top young tackle in the game, still has not reported to the team, nor does he have plans to any time soon.

Peters has dug in on his stance of landing a lucrative new contract, and the Bills have dug in on their stance that they will not talk until Peters is back with the team.

It would be one thing if the two sides were at least talking; but neither side can remember the last time there have been any talks. There has been no communication between Peters and the Bills. Nor are any talks planned for anytime soon. It is the NFL's version of a cold war.

In fact, Peters has had next to no communication with any of his teammates, either. The only Bills player believed to in contact with Peters is his left guard, Derrick Dockery, who has swapped text messages with Peters throughout the summer. But those texts never get into the contract stalemate; they are more of a friendly variety, checking in to see how the other is doing.

Privately, Peters continues to maintain that he plans to sit out the regular-season opener, beyond the opener and as far into the season -- even the full season -- until he has the deal he wants. He is prepared to do it while foregoing his $190,000 weekly in-season paychecks. The Bills are as resolute as Peters.

Now contract stalemates and cold wars can change with one simple telephone call. But this one shows no signs of thawing.

In its preseason game against the Colts, Buffalo suffered its own potentially crushing injury. Left tackle Langston Walker, the replacement for holdout Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters, injured his left forearm in the second quarter and got taken to locker room. This is not good. And it's made worse by Peters' situation.

Safety measure

Thursday, for the first time in six and a half months, ColtsPro Bowl safety Bob Sanders put on his pads. Friday, for the first time in the same six and a half months, Sanders actually hit somebody.

"It felt good," said a grinning Sanders, the NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

After two straight seasons of shoulder surgery, the Colts are taking extreme caution with Sanders, who is the league's fastest safety and covers the most ground. They do not, under any circumstance, want to overuse him. They do not want him hitting anybody in practice. They want to limit his practice time as much as possible.

The Colts know that, with Sanders on the field and in the lineup, their entire defense has more energy and confidence. And it's obvious in the numbers.

Around the corners

When the Bills drafted cornerback Leodis McKelvin in the first round last April, they did so with the idea that the Patriots played with three wideouts on about 55 percent of the plays, and Buffalo could not match up. With McKelvin, Buffalo believes it has a better chance.

Yet the Bills cornerback that has generated the most conversations amongst his teammates is left cornerback Jabari Greer, a veteran undrafted free agent out of Tennessee.

"He's become a really good corner," said Bills safety Donte Whitner, who was not the only player to cite Greer's play.

With Greer, McKelvin and Terrence McGee, Buffalo should be better equipped to challenge Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Jabar Gaffney.

Extra points

» Good news for the Bills: After missing Sunday night's game with a leg bruise he suffered last week, quarterback Trent Edwards is expected back at practice Tuesday, in time to be ready for Buffalo's preseason finale against Detroit and the regular-season opener against Seattle.

» After undergoing surgery last season on his Lisfranc joint and having three screws inserted in his foot, Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney is expected to be ready for the regular-season opener agains the Bears.

» Colts rookie running back Mike Hart has picked up Indianapolis' offense faster than most any rookie has. Usually coaches have to correct rookies' mistakes. So far this summer, Colts players cannot recall hearing Colts coaches correcting Hart.

» The other Colts rookie who has turned heads this summer is wide receiver Pierre Garcon, who was picked three spots after Hart. Harrison said Garcon "has the same motor I did when I was a rookie -- he's 100 percent all the time."

» Look for the Bills to be far less predictable on offense this season. They are working on a no-huddle attack, while allowing Edwards the freedom to change plays at the line of scrimmage. They also are moving around Lee Evans, who always lined up on the left side last year. Opponents are going to have a difficult time recognizing Buffalo's offense this season.

» Hard to believe, but the AFC South has been in existence for 102 weeks and the Colts have owned or shared the division lead in 95 of those weeks, including the past 60 straight. One reason is the way the Colts have played in their division. Against AFC South teams, the Colts are 28-8.

» Nobody has started any faster than the Colts. They now have won 21 straight regular-season games in September and October, two behind the all-time NFL record that Curly Lambeau's Packers set from 1928-'32, when they won 23 straight September-October games.

» True, but strange: The Colts have had more touchdowns than punts in a remarkable four straight seasons.

» Here's a measure of how much the preseason means. Since 2005, the Colts have the NFL's worst preseason record, 3-14, and the league's best regular-season record, 39-9.

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