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Ben Smith

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Associated Press
Andrew Luck said the Colts have been able to keep its focus in the wake of the hoopla surrounding Peyton Manning’s return to Indianapolis.

Colts try to keep focused

– Chuck Pagano is as right as a cold beer on a hot day about this, on the occasion of Douglas MacArthur wading ashore again in Indianapolis.

Excuse me. Make that, “Peyton Manning wading ashore again.”

Peyton shall return today, but Pagano, who’s in charge of raining on the parade, has the bigger picture to consider. Most immediately, he has to figure out how to keep Manning and the Denver offense from dropping 40 points or so on his Colts. Long term, he has to turn the puzzling loss to San Diego last Monday night into fuel for what still looks like bright days ahead.

And so, no, Manning’s return was not much on his mind this week.

“The obvious is the obvious,” he said.

The obvious being that this is no ordinary Sunday, at least outside the Colts’ locker room. Colts owner Jim Irsay crashing Pagano’s regular midweek news conference is your first clue to that. No. 2 will be the pre-game video tribute to honor Manning – the dubious timing of which is quintessentially Irsay, with his big heart and thoughts that occasionally are beamed to him from Pluto.

He was getting it from all quarters last week because he made the mistake of telling USA Today something the constantly famished 24/7 sports media could turn into sustenance, if barely. Nothing he said was remotely controversial – the gist of it was he was “disappointed” the Colts didn’t win more than one Super Bowl during Manning’s 14 seasons – but when the beast must be fed, the beast must be fed.

And so it became a thing.

Denver coach John Fox, in a classic bit of gamesmanship, spouted that what Irsay said was a “cheap shot.”

Former Colts coach Tony Dungy said he was making it “personal.” And on and on and on.

And nonsense and nonsense and nonsense. In no way, shape or form did Irsay ever say he was disappointed in Manning. He said he was disappointed the Colts didn’t win more Super Bowls with him. It’s a subtle but crucial distinction that went missing in a media culture that doesn’t do subtlety, which is why Irsay showed up at Pagano’s presser to essentially explain himself.

“I don’t see where there was one negative comment made by me,” he said. “Again, you’re talking about your organizational philosophy when you talk about how you’re building your team. That’s not a comment based towards Peyton or anything like that.”

Of course it’s not. But that doesn’t mean Manning, a stone killer between the hashes, won’t use it as fuel. He will.

Which gets us back to Pagano and his Colts, and the focus that’s become their signature.

“I don’t think there’s any problem for anybody keeping focused,” said Andrew Luck, the startlingly gifted heir apparent.

“It’s a football game. We’re not ignorant. We know who’s coming to town. We know it’s a great football team and a great challenge for us.”

Just what Pagano likes to hear. And expects to.

“(Luck) knows, everybody knows what they have to do,” he said. “We have to play better than we played on Monday night. We have to execute. We’ve got things to clean up, so we’re going back to work.”

Douglas MacArthur or no Douglas MacArthur.

Excuse me. Peyton Manning or no Peyton Manning.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.

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