Manning, teammates land in Hawaii to hero's welcome
KAPOLEI, Hawaii -- Peyton Manning always wanted to be late to the Pro Bowl.
He finally got the chance to make the dramatic entrance reserved for champions thanks to the four teammates with him in Hawaii and the other 48 who delivered a title to Indianapolis.
When Manning and the rest of the Colts' All-Pro selections took the practice field with the AFC squad Wednesday, they received the customary greetings for new champs: backslaps, best wishes and plenty of rib-crunching hugs.
This time, Manning was on the receiving end -- and the Colts' championship suddenly seemed real to the Super Bowl MVP.
"I'd always noticed at the Tuesday practices that the champions aren't here yet," Manning recalled. "I thought it would be nice to come over here late. ... I truly appreciate the support, [but] you get a little bit embarrassed, especially when people are loud. I just don't like a lot of noise, especially when somebody comes up and picks you up, grabs you."
After a late night of postgame partying and a raucous rally back home in Indianapolis on Monday, Manning joined receivers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, and offensive linemen Tarik Glenn and Jeff Saturday for a lengthy chartered flight to Hawaii on Tuesday, courtesy of the Colts owners.
They found something to make the 4,340 miles fly, however: They watched the tape of Indianapolis' 29-17 win over Chicago for the first time.
"Not much sleep. I wouldn't say I'm very well-rested, but it's the kind that you like," Manning said. "Being able to fly out here yesterday on Air Irsay, as I call it, with my teammates, and then to watch the Super Bowl on the plane, that's hard to beat."
Manning was 25-of-38 for 247 yards and a touchdown in that rain-soaked win over the Bears. He's starting for the AFC again after winning the MVP award in Hawaii two years ago, but doesn't plan to take this Pro Bowl quite as seriously as he did in previous years.
"There won't be a lot of motivation going on out there," Manning said. "This will be a cruise-control kind of week."
But don't let his fellow Pro Bowlers find out. Minnesota lineman Steve Hutchinson also got in a playful shot at his longtime friend when they hung out in a restaurant downstairs at the players' resort on Oahu's west shore Monday night.
"He just looks at me and says, 'You've changed,'" Manning said. "Seriously, there's nothing more you could say to me to make me madder. I hadn't brought [the Super Bowl] up one time. People are bringing it up to me, and I'm giving them my Elvis Presley: 'Thank you very much, thank you very much.'
"My whole goal the whole week is to prove to him how I'm very much the same guy. That's who I am."
Manning also relishes the chance to play for New England coach Bill Belichick, who got this assignment after the Patriots' wrenching loss to Indianapolis in the AFC Championship Game. Belichick left a congratulatory voicemail message for Manning last Friday, and he joked around with the quarterback during stretching exercises before Wednesday's practice.
And Manning's teammates are looking forward to a week of relaxation. Saturday, his longtime center, spent just enough time at home to wash his clothes Monday night. After throwing them back into the same suitcase he took to Miami, Saturday was off for the islands to play for Belichick.
"Bill even said that -- as much as he hated to say it -- congratulations," Saturday said. "I'm still so excited about it. I don't know if that means it hasn't sunk in yet."
"It's still surreal," Glenn added. "What made it a reality was getting the chance to celebrate it with the fans. Now, we're on vacation."
Saturday was less crazy about the drizzle that arrived late in the AFC's practice, perhaps ruining the 295-pounder's chance to catch some rays on the shore after the light workout.
"This is just like Miami," he said, looking up at the sky. "Where do I have to go to get some sun?"
The five Colts plan to spend more time hanging out together this week, and they might even watch that Super Bowl tape again. Wayne, the only first-time Pro Bowl selection in the contingent, is looking forward to taking the next step in his career alongside several teammates and friends.
"I'm a young pup, and these guys have all been here and done that," Wayne said. "I'm just glad I was able to savor the moment with my team."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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