Colts’ Saturday: Manning ‘absolutely’ will play in 2012

Colts center Jeff Saturday still regularly communicates with Peyton Manning, and that inside access has led him to believe one thing: The QB definitely will play in 2012 after he makes a full recovery from four neck surgeries.

“Absolutely,” Saturday told NFL Network at the NFL Scouting Combine. “He’s going to hate me saying that, but I’ve said it since last November, so my story hasn’t changed.”

“He’s doing his deal and he’s getting ready,” Saturday added. “He’ll be playing football, I can assure you that. I hope it’s here (in Indianapolis), but he’ll be playing somewhere.”

Saturday later said he doesn’t want to speak for Manning, but from what he had witnessed since November, he’s confident the QB will return to play well.

“This guy has worked his way back from all these surgeries and all the things he’s going through, and he’ll be ready to rock,” Saturday said.

New Colts coach Chuck Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson told NFL Network on Thursday that they haven’t seen Manning throw yet, but Saturday believes the team should reach out to the four-time NFL MVP if keeping him is the priority.

“I would say if I’m the Colts and I have interest in Peyton, I’m calling him up to get him to come throw for me,” said Saturday, who will be a free agent next month. “I’m not going to wait for him to decide to walk in and throw. I’m going to actively seek that out.”

Saturday was more direct later in the conversation. When Rich Eisen reminded him of Grigson’s comments, Saturday said flately, “I don’t like that.”

“Listen, I’m a player guy and I’m always going to be a player guy,” he said. “I know (Manning’s) phone rings. So if you want to see him throw and that’s important, then he would have been seen throwing.”

Colts owner Jim Irsay told reporters last week that he and Manning recently had been in communication, and on Saturday, Irsay took to his favorite social-media platform to reiterate that point.

“Not sure why some speculate that Peyton n I haven’t met in person recently..we’ve met in person n communicated frequently n last week or so,” Irsay wrote on Twitter. “As we have in the last month.”

Saturday seemed to confirm that Irsay and Manning have been in contact, saying “that’s true,” when told of Irsay’s tweet.

“Both of those men care about what they’re doing,” Saturday said. “Jim Irsay loves the Indianapolis Colts and he cares about this franchise, he cares about this community, probably cares about the community more than his actual team, and so he’s going to do what he feels is absolutely best for the Colts. And Peyton is exactly the same way. Peyton doesn’t want to force the team to do something that’s a bad decision for them.”

Saturday has faith that Irsay and Manning eventually will work things out, one way or another.

“I just think we’re trying to force the decision to be made so early,” Saturday said, “that we’re not giving them time to go through the process.”

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