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
"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
"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
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."