Shouting match near end of loss downplayed
One day after Manning and Wayne engaged in a shouting match near the end of a 27-24 loss to Jacksonville, the primary participants did not make themselves available to reporters, as usual. Other players tried to explain what led to Sunday's sideline confrontation.
"It's football. Guys get hot and tempers flare," center Jeff Saturday said. "You didn't see us pulling guys back, so it's not that big of a deal."
It was an uncharacteristic distraction for a team that won four straight games before Sunday's loss.
Perhaps most surprising were the players involved. Manning is known for his studious ways and calm demeanor, while Wayne has quietly emerged as one of Manning's top targets.
On Sunday, the two Louisiana natives were clearly irritated. Wayne and Manning jawed briefly at each other, facemask to facemask, and Wayne even shoved last year's NFL co-MVP moments before the offense went back onto the field with 33 seconds left in the game.
Afterward, they appeared to make public amends. Manning called Wayne one of his favorite players and said it was merely out of frustration. Wayne denied the incident took place, even though it was broadcast on television.
"We were discussing what we were going to do next. That's it," Wayne said after the game. "Nothing happened. We lost our focus. We have to get back to work."
Although neither player answered questions Monday, the topic did not dissipate.
How could it when two of the top starters on one of the league's most proficient offenses were caught arguing during a game?
Some speculated Wayne was upset with the lack of passes thrown his way Sunday. Wayne had two catches for 28 yards against the Jaguars after catching 26 passes and three touchdowns in Indianapolis' previous five games.
Coach Tony Dungy denied that was the issue.
"My understanding was that it was not about that," Dungy said. "Obviously, it was an indication of how the game went."
Colts players, however, tried to downplay the incident.
Saturday said he thought it was blown out of proportion and acknowledged he's engaged in occasional shouting matches either in the huddle or on the sideline with other offensive linemen, calling it part of the game.
Defensive tackle Montae Reagor said he didn't even see it, and wide receiver Brandon Stokley, an ex-Baltimore Raven, defended it by saying that's how leaders sometimes react. He recalled similar situations involving Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.
Tight end Marcus Pollard even tried to lighten the moment.
"It happens, but I've never seen it happen to that extreme," Pollard said. "But if someone gets too close to me, I tell them they've got bad breath first."
Stokley stood between Manning and Wayne during the argument Sunday and said he couldn't even decipher what sparked the confrontation. Instead, he was more concerned with breaking it up and getting the Colts refocused on making a winning or tying drive.
"I was just like 'Hey, hey, hey, we don't need that right here,' " Stokley said. "It's one of those things that happens in the heat of battle. It looks like you're in desperation mode and you're going to lose, and it's frustrating."
Dungy and the players insisted it was time to forget the shouting match and move on.
"You have to understand what we do for a living," Saturday said. "I get hit on every play, so for a guy to walk up and shove a guy is not really that big a deal."
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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