High-profile quarterback duels are nothing new to Peyton Manning. They've been a weekly occurrence for him this season, in fact. He already has faced New England's Tom Brady, a two-time Super Bowl winner, and Tennessee's Steve McNair, who shared the NFL most valuable player award with him last season. But this week is something special because the Green Bay Packers will be in town for the Indianapolis Colts' home opener Sunday and this could be the last time that Manning shares a field with Brett Favre.
The Favre-Manning connection runs deeper than just the two quarterbacks admiring each other's ability to throw a football. Favre grew up in Kiln, Miss., idolizing Peyton's father Archie, who starred for Ole Miss and then the New Orleans Saints.
"I just loved the way Archie played,'' Favre said during a news conference this week. "I got a chance to meet Archie a long time ago. [He was] in some ways, like Bart Starr, larger than life.''
Favre recalls calling Peyton, at Archie's behest, after Peyton suffered a tough loss while playing in college at Tennessee. "I just remember how mature he seemed,'' Favre said.
Peyton Manning said he remembers playing golf with Favre and going out to dinner with him when Favre traveled to Knoxville to be photographed for a 1997 magazine cover with Manning.
"He's a guy I've always had a tremendous amount of respect for, for the way he plays the game, the way he competes,'' Manning said during a conference call this week. "I've always tried to play the game the right way and compete. And nobody does it better than Brett Favre.''
Favre turns 35 next month and is winding down his brilliant career. The Packers don't know if the three-time league MVP will retire after this season, or following another season or two beyond this one. He has handed over the honor of being recognized as the sport's top quarterback to the 28-year-old Manning, but he isn't complaining.
"It's kind of out with the old, in with the new,'' Favre said. "That's just the way it is.''
Both played well when the Packers beat the Colts, 26-24, in Green Bay in the 2000 season. Favre threw for 301 yards and two touchdowns, while Manning passed for 294 yards and three touchdowns. The Packers and Colts are not scheduled to play again in the regular season until 2008.
Manning and Favre are the NFL's two winningest quarterbacks since the start of the 1999 season, with 52 victories apiece. They also are the game's two most durable quarterbacks. Favre will make his 192nd straight regular season start Sunday, a league record for a quarterback. Manning will make his 99th consecutive start, the league's second-longest active string among quarterbacks. He has started every game of his NFL career.
"Being second to him is something I take a lot of pride in,'' Manning said. "Eventually I'd like to break it. But it's hard to gain any ground on him when he keeps starting.''
Steelers-Dolphins To Play As Scheduled
The NFL plans to play the Steelers-Dolphins game at 1 p.m. Sunday in Miami, as scheduled. There has been consideration given to postponing the game until Monday or Tuesday because of the threat of Hurricane Jeanne hitting the area over the weekend. But league officials are hopeful the game can be played as scheduled, although the possibility exists that they could make a last-minute decision to reschedule it.
The Steelers, at the league's request, were to travel to South Florida today instead of Saturday.
The league moved the Dolphins' season-opening game against the Titans to a Saturday because of Hurricane Ivan.
New Coaches Under .500
Coaching changes rarely provide a quick fix in the NFL. The league's seven new head coaches have a combined record of 6-8. Only one -- the Falcons' Jim Mora Jr. -- is 2-0. The Cardinals' Dennis Green and the Bills' Mike Mularkey are 0-2. The Redskins' Joe Gibbs, the Giants' Tom Coughlin, the Raiders' Norv Turner and the Bears' Lovie Smith are 1-1.
Arbitrator Rules In Dolphins' Favor
Arbitrator Richard Bloch ruled that tailback Ricky Williams, who retired just before training camp, must repay the Dolphins $8.6 million.
The Dolphins asked Bloch in a hearing Tuesday in the Miami area to force Williams to repay $5.3 million in incentives earned over the past two seasons and $3.3 million in prorated bonus money paid to him by the Saints in 1999. Williams's contract contained provisions forcing him to repay that money if he refused to play. Attorneys for Williams and the NFL Players Association argued before Bloch that Williams shouldn't have to repay the money because the Dolphins had gotten Williams to play for below market value, and because the Dolphins shouldn't be entitled to bonus money they hadn't paid Williams in the first place.
People close to Williams recently had mentioned the possibility that he would file for bankruptcy if he lost the case, and the Miami Herald reported today that a bankruptcy proceeding perhaps could lead to Williams becoming a free agent . . . .
Quarterback Tim Couch filed a grievance against the Packers, alleging that the club shouldn't have been allowed to release him just before the season because he was injured. Couch missed practice time with a sore arm but attempted to play in exhibition games. The Packers paid Couch a signing bonus, reportedly $625,000, but were not obligated to pay his $625,000 salary for the season after he was released. Colts officials say they would be interested in signing Couch as their backup quarterback when he's healthy.
Pittsburgh rookie Ben Roethlisberger is in line to become the 175th quarterback to start a game for another team during Favre's consecutive-starts streak. . . .
The Colts knew going into the season that their first three opponents -- the Patriots, Titans and Packers -- would be among the league's best teams. What they couldn't be sure about is that their Week 4 foe, the Jaguars, also would be building an early-season case to be included among the league's elite clubs.
"When the schedule came out, we knew we'd find out a lot about our team early in the season,'' Manning said. . . .
Buccaneers Coach Jon Gruden told reporters that Turner did the right thing by not going out of his way to ensure that Raiders wide receiver Jerry Rice got a catch last weekend to extend his record streak of 274 games with at least one reception.
"He's got enough records, doesn't he?'' Gruden said during a news briefing this week. "There comes a time when winning the game goes to the forefront.''
Gruden is 0-2 for the first time as a head coach as he readies to face his old team in Oakland on Sunday night. . . .
Atlanta tailback Warrick Dunn practiced Thursday and seems increasingly likely to play against Arizona on Sunday despite a sprained knee. . . .
Colts tailback Edgerrin James participated in parts of Thursday's practice, testing his strained hamstring. He could play Sunday against the Packers but, even if he does, probably would split carries with Dominic Rhodes and James Mungro. . . .
The Chiefs are making plans to be without tailback Priest Holmes and wide receiver Eddie Kennison on Sunday against the Texans. Neither practiced Thursday. Holmes has a sprained ankle and Kennison has a strained hamstring. Coach Dick Vermeil had a clear-the-air meeting Thursday with tailback Larry Johnson, who could split the playing time with Derrick Blaylock in Holmes's absence. Johnson was upset with Vermeil's comment Tuesday that the former first-round draft pick would have to "take the diaper off'' to play, a reference to the second-year pro's unhappiness with his lack of playing time during his Chiefs tenure. . . .
49ers tailback Kevan Barlow practiced on a limited basis Thursday and is scheduled to start Sunday at Seattle despite a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee. . . . The 49ers say they are promoting rookie cornerback Shawntae Spencer into the starting lineup ahead of Jimmy Williams, in place of the injured Mike Rumph, after nearly making the move last week but deciding against it at the last minute. Coach Dennis Erickson again is reserving the right to change his mind, however. . . .
There remain rumblings around the league that the Saints and perhaps the Cowboys are still trying to trade for Packers cornerback Mike McKenzie. The league's trading deadline is Oct. 19. . . .
The Jaguars placed defensive end Paul Spicer on the injured reserve list, officially ending his season, and signed guard Mike Compton. . . .
Denver plans to re-sign rookie quarterback Matt Mauck to its practice squad today after he was released Wednesday and cleared waivers Thursday. The move leaves the Broncos with only two quarterbacks, Jake Plummer and Danny Kanell, on their 53-man roster. They released Mauck to continue restocking their injury-depleted defensive line by signing end Anton Palepoi.