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Peyton Manning has a chip on his shoulder, but why?

July 25, 2012
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Peyton Manning seems to have made more noise and public appearances in his brief time in Denver than he did in 15 years in Indianapolis.

Already, TMZ has shown photos of Manning’s new Denver area mansion. He has publicly reached out to victims of a shooting spree at a Colorado movie theater. And Manning—along with Broncos Coach John Fox—were called up on stage at a recent Kenny Chesney/Tim McGraw concert at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

The ultra-private Manning seems to be taking the stage in a whole new way now that he’s in the Mile High City. Maybe the thin air has gotten to him.

It’s true that Manning had his Peyback Foundation and did his share of charity work during his years in Indianapolis. But I have no idea where his Indianapolis-area house was (or is) and I certainly don’t recall him taking the stage at a concert here.

More importantly, though, Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway insists Manning is ready to play at full-speed as training camp nears. Recently, Elway said Manning has "a chip on his shoulder.”

That statement would seem to say Manning has an ax to grind. That got me wondering: Who put the chip on Manning’s shoulder, and against whomdoes he have an ax to grind?

I suppose you could conclude that Manning is ready to grind his ax on all those who doubted he could play again.

But you could also conclude that Manning is sharpening his ax to take a swing at Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, who cut Manning in March as he was rebuilding the team.

Although it was a slightly odd press conference when Manning and Irsay parted ways last spring, there certainly didn’t appear to be bad blood boiling between the two. Maybe I missed something. Manning seemed to understand it was a simple business decision by Irsay. (See video below, then story continues.)

After all, the Colts had the rights to the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, and it was expected that they’d use that to select Stanford’s Andrew Luck. Which they did. And just about everybody concluded that there wasn’t enough room in this town for Manning and Luck.

Manning couldn’t possibly have expected Irsay to pass on a 22-year-old passing prodigy in favor of a 36-year-old gunslinger with—at best—three shots left in his six-shooter.

But there again, maybe Manning thought after all he’s done for Indianapolis and the Colts, he deserved that sort of deference. There’s no doubt Manning has the ability to do some serious damage to the Colts. Maybe he already has, as the team for the first time in years is struggling to sell out its home games via season tickets.

By Manning merely winning in Denver, there won’t be any shortage of Colts fans bristling much more than they already have. If Manning pilots the Broncos to a Super Bowl championship, the pain for the Colts and its fans—and in some cases its now former fans—will be even greater.

That pain shall pass, especially if Luck delivers on half of what he’s supposed to. But if Manning truly does have a chip on his shoulder, believes Irsay is responsible for putting it there, and if he at some point decides to talk publicly about it, that will deliver the deepest cut of all to Irsay’s Horseshoe Kingdom.

And it won’t even matter how illogical it is for Manning to come to that conclusion. The damage in Indianapolis will be done.

If Manning follows the playbook he used in Indianapolis, Irsay should be safe. No. 18 rarely ever disclosed all publicly. But his journey to Denver has uncovered a brave new world. One in which Manning is making TMZ headlines and taking center stage at high-profile concerts.

So maybe too, Manning is ready to play for the first time like he has a chip on his shoulder and swing his sharpened ax in a public forum—consequences in Indianapolis be damned.

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