Manning: 18-game schedule could alter Colts’ roster

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning isn’t convinced expanding the National Football League schedule to 18 regular season games is a good idea. But not for the reason you might think.

Most players are worried about not getting more pay to play two more regular season games, or are concerned about the wear and tear that those games will put on their bodies. And Manning is concerned about those things too. But he’s chiefly concerned with how those two games will affect the productivity of his team and their overall chances to win.

Manning thinks the two additional games could hurt the Colts’ chances of evaluating and signing good undrafted free agents. Colts President Bill Polian has cemented his place in football history with his ability to evaluate talent taken deep in the draft and plucked out of the abyss of players who slipped through the draft’s cracks.

“It sounds like it’s going to happen next year … the biggest challenge is going to be is for a guy, an undrafted free agent … some times a guy like that needs a third and fourth preseason game to show the coaches, hey, I belong here,” Manning said.

Manning realizes that without a steady flow of productive undrafted free agents, his supporting cast in Indianapolis would have looked much different over the course of his career.

“Jeff Saturday said with two preseason games, he probably wouldn’t have made it in the NFL,” Manning said. “There are certain guys who look great in practice on the field, but all of a sudden they get in games and they just don’t look quite as comfortable. The lights come on and something just doesn’t go well.  Vice versa, there are guys who look average in practice and they get on the playing field and all they do is return punts for touchdowns, make one-handed catches, make interceptions. I think you’ll lose that ability for coaches to evaluate those players. That would be a shame because there are so many great stories of undrafted guys like Jeff Saturday on our team and Dominic Rhodes a few years ago and so many throughout the history of the league. I think that’s something the league is going to miss out on.”

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