- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Peyton Manning said neck surgery in March has alleviated symptoms that prompted him to endure up to three treatment sessions a day, which took away from time he wanted to spend in meetings and weight sessions.
"I feel good out there throwing, I feel good in my lifting, I feel like everything went according to plan," Manning said on the opening day of the Indianapolis Colts' mandatory minicamp. "I'm very relieved of that and I no longer have to get the treatment that I was having to get for the past four years.
"Treatment was time as much as anything, manual traction trying to relieve some things. Three times a day about 25 minutes apiece just got to be tough, very time consuming."
Manning had surgery in Chicago in early March to alleviate the problems a pinched nerve had caused for about four years.
Manning's comments were his first in public on football matters since Indianapolis lost to the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV.
He's not buying into the recent history of Super Bowl hangovers for runners-up who then produced poor follow-up seasons.
"I don't really get into the tendencies," he said. "I think it's all about how you handle it as a team. I think we've had another outstanding offseason. Come training camp time we expect everybody to be here."
Colts coach Jim Caldwell pushed back the team's offseason program to give his players sufficient time off so they don't feel the 2010 season is stacked quickly on top of 2009.
Manning declined to talk about his contract situation, but as he heads into the final year of his current deal, owner Jim Irsay has said he intends to line up a new package that will make the league's first four-time MVP the league's highest-paid player.
Manning said he's spent time with receivers since April, putting a particular emphasis on building good timing with players such as rookie tight end Brody Eldridge, receiver Sam Giguere and re-establishing his connection with Anthony Gonzalez, who was injured in last season's opener and unable to return.
The quarterback won't be throwing to wide receiver Reggie Wayne, who's staying away from minicamp to make a statement about his desire for a new contract.
Caldwell said Wayne, defensive end Robert Mathis and safety Antoine Bethea are not with the team. Mathis also is seeking a new contract, and Bethea has not accepted the team's $2.521 million one-year restricted free-agent tender and cannot participate until he signs.
Caldwell said his intention is to "coach who shows up."
Wayne issued a statement through his agent, Joby Branion, saying he would continue to work out in Florida as he usually does. But veteran holdouts have been rare during Bill Polian's tenure in Indy.
"I have tremendous respect for [owner] Jim Irsay, [president] Bill Polian and the entire Indianapolis Colts organization, but at this time, we are in disagreement concerning my contract situation," Wayne said. "Therefore, I will not be attending this week's mini-camp.
"I hope that a fair resolution can be reached in the not-too-distant future that allows me to achieve my goal of playing my entire career with the Colts."
Mathis arrived in town Wednesday and played in a charity softball game the next night. He refused to discuss his contract situation and wouldn't even say then if he planned to show up for Friday's workout.
Manning, like other veterans, wants all the contract stuff resolved before the Colts report to training camp Aug. 1.
That way, the Colts can rely on a healthier Manning to make life miserable for everyone else in the league.
"You've still got to go out there and do it," Manning said. "I'm excited about the potential for this team and hopefully we can put it to good use."
If the Colts are to reach their potential, they'll need 2007 defensive player of the year Bob Sanders to return to the form that made him one of the most dangerous safeties in football.
Sanders has been making appearances on the practice field over the past several weeks -- a scene he hopes will become more regular this season.
The two-time Pro Bowl safety has played in just eight games the past two seasons and during the last three years has become almost a permanent spectator during offseason team activities, training camp and regular-season practices.
"It's fun to get out there and compete and enjoy the weather," Sanders said. "This is the first time I've been able to do OTAs in years. I've always been rehabbing a lot and spending a lot of time in the training room. It feels great to not go into the training room and going into the weight room."
While Manning and safety Sanders (biceps) are recovered and working, the Colts listed 13 players who won't practice Friday because of injuries, including Dwight Freeney, cornerbacks Kelvin Hayden and Jerraud Powers, and offensive lineman Tony Ugoh. Caldwell declined to get into specifics.
Freeney is rehabbing a torn ligament in his right ankle. Freeney did not undergo surgery and has not yet practiced, though he hopes to be on the field at the start of training camp.
Paul Kuharsky covers the AFC South for ESPN.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report
15hBy Ian O'Connor