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Not so fast, Favre: Colts players wait on Manning's return

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts take Peyton Manning's injury seriously.

Jim Irsay's tweets, not so much.

A day after the team owner wrote on Twitter that he was in Hattiesburg, Miss., the city Brett Favre calls home, coach Jim Caldwell and his players tried to dismiss speculation Favre would be joining the Colts as Manning's backup.

"I think they're hilarious," defensive captain Gary Brackett said of Irsay's posts. "Usually, he's trying to write something from some kind of country song, he has a lot of giveaways or whatever. But I wouldn't call anything on Twitter gospel."

Regardless, the Colts are now in the midst in a swirling storm that involves the league's only four-time MVP, Manning, the league's only other three-time MVP, Favre, and an owner who uses social media to connect directly -- frequently and sometimes humorously -- with fans.

Manning has been on the physically unable to perform list since training camp opened Aug. 1 as he continues to recover from May neck surgery, the second surgery on his neck in 15 months. On Saturday evening, Manning said he would not play in the Colts' final two preseason games because the recovery was taking longer than expected, in part he believes, because he could not work out with team trainers during the 4½-month lockout.

Caldwell has not said when Manning will return to practice after missing 25 consecutive workouts. Manning insists he'll need the next two weeks just to get healthy.

Irsay compounded the concerns Saturday morning when he tweeted that the Colts must be prepared to start the season without their No. 1 quarterback. Irsay has not responded to interview requests made by The Associated Press.

Indy's dismal preseason play -- they've been outscored 49-13 in two losses -- even prompted Irsay to ask fans who they'd prefer if they signed a veteran free agent. The only other quarterbacks on the roster are third-year veteran Curtis Painter, who has a career rating of 9.8, longtime NFL backup Dan Orlovsky and undrafted rookie Mike Hartline.

Painter is trying to ignore the talk.

"I never really have read much and I don't follow too many things on there," Painter said. "I kind of focus on myself and trying to put myself in the best position I can."

On Sunday, Irsay was back at it, this time writing he was in Mississippi. It's unclear whether he was being serious when he wrote: "I'm in Mississippi,down at the crossroads....looking 4 that deal Mr. Johnson cut so many years ago."

More than likely, it was a reference to blues musician Robert Johnson, a Mississippi native. The legendary story says Johnson made a deal with the devil at a crossroads in his home state so he could become a star.

When the follow up Tweet referenced Hattiesburg, speculation about Favre began in earnest, and then Irsay tweeted: "I can't clear anything up...everything is fluid and in flux...b ready 4 anything n everything then nothing is not foe BUT FRIEND!"

"One of the things that you know about him (Irsay) is that he's very current," Caldwell said. "He uses social media to engage our fans, he uses it to inform and he uses it have to fun. He's got a lot of folks engaged and that's what it's for."

Caldwell wouldn't say which tack he thought Irsay took over the weekend.

Is it possible they could sign Favre, putting two of the NFL's greatest quarterbacks on the same roster? Sure, though no indication it will happen.

Favre's agent, Bus Cook, has repeatedly said his client would not come back for a 21st NFL season. On Sunday, Cook denied there had been any contact between the Colts and Favre. In an e-mail to The Associated Press on Monday, Cook said he was "not aware" of anything new on the Colts-Favre front.

In the locker room, players reacted with more amusement than contemplation to the rumors.

Painter seemed content to go about the business of running the Colts against one of Favre's old teams, the Green Bay Packers, on Friday night. Tight end Dallas Clark and receivers Pierre Garcon, Anthony Gonzalez and Blair White all expressed confidence in Painter. Even kicker Adam Vinatieri, who wears Favre's trademark No. 4, wound up talking about Favre.

"Most things in life are for sale, but it's like I told them, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it," Vinatieri said, jokingly referring to the possibility of giving up his number to Favre.

The most serious question for the Colts is when they'll get Manning back.

Manning has started all 208 regular-season games in his career and 19 in the playoffs. His streak of 227 consecutive starts is No. 2 all-time among quarterbacks, trailing only Favre. The only other time his streak was in jeopardy was 2008 when he missed all of training camp and all of the preseason after undergoing surgery twice to remove an infected bursa sac from his left knee.

He struggled early that season before going on to win his third MVP Award.

Those who know Manning think it's all chatter.

At halftime of Sunday night's preseason game between the Dallas Cowboys and San Diego Chargers, former Colts coach Tony Dungy said the only way Manning would miss the Sept. 11 season opener against the Houston Texans is if he were "dead."

Most of Manning's teammates agree with Dungy.

"Our triggerman will be back and he's going to be ready to go," Pro Bowl defensive end Robert Mathis said when asked about the season opener. "There's no doubt in my mind."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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