From Comcast SportsNetINDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Peyton Manning is cleared to play football. Still not so clear is whether it will be with the Indianapolis Colts. He got the good news Thursday while little brother Eli was making final preparations to lead the New York Giants against the New England Patriots in Sunday's Super Bowl -- something big brother always aims for. Maybe there's even a Manning vs. Manning Super Bowl in the offing. What remains unsettled, though, is Peyton's status with the Colts and whether he and team owner Jim Irsay can patch up their very public spat. At least it's a possibility now that Manning's surgeon has given the star quarterback clearance to start taking hits again. "Peyton Manning underwent a thorough medical re-evaluation as part of a postoperative visit with his surgeon," Dr. Robert Watkins said in a statement. "As a result of this examination, Manning is medically cleared to play professional football." Colts owner Jim Irsay responded to Watkins' statement by writing on Twitter that Manning has not been cleared to play by the team because he has not passed its physical. He said the club would issue a statement later Friday. That's just another piece of this muddled mess. The Colts owe Manning a 28 million roster bonus by March 8, they want to use the No. 1 pick in this year's draft on Manning's successor and they must make key decisions over the next five weeks without knowing yet how much room they'll have under the salary cap. Manning, who turns 36 in March, had neck surgery in September -- his third in 19 months. "We're in a holding pattern in that respect," new general manager Ryan Grigson said when asked if the uncertainty would prevent the Colts from doing business with their soon-to-be free agents. "Until it is (resolved), we're going to go about our business as usual." Nobody seems to know how this will play out. The biggest problem in Manning's recovery has been regaining the strength in his throwing arm. That's something Manning and the Colts have not discussed, and, apparently, it's not even a topic between the two brothers. "I don't know what's going to happen with Peyton," Eli Manning said. "I know he is rehabbing. He is going to try to get better. I know he wants to continue to play football, if that's an option. The No. 1 priority for him is to get to 100 percent. Until he gets to that position, it's tough to say what is going to happen." The Manning circus has dominated the headlines at Indianapolis' first Super Bowl. It started with rumors about Manning's possible retirement, and the Colts' pending statement will certainly keep Peyton in the headlines -- and overshadow his brother's quest for a second Super Bowl title -- for a fifth consecutive day. The question is whether the Colts are willing to pay a 36-year-old quarterback who has had three neck surgeries in 19 months. And there have been growing indications the Colts may be ready to part with their longtime franchise player, though Irsay will make the final call. "You can't do things to where you are going to hurt the whole franchise with other decisions that you know might hurt at the moment, but in the end they help the sum of the parts," Grigson said. "It is a tough deal in this business, and it happens at every position. It happens with coaching, it happens with people in personnel and it is completely part of the process and the business." Irsay and Manning are scheduled to meet again next week. Last month, the Colts fired vice chairman Bill Polian, general manager Chris Polian, coach Jim Caldwell and most of Caldwell's assistants. The flurry of moves prompted Manning to go public with his complaints, which drew a strong rebuke from Irsay. The two appeared to mend fences Friday. But the onslaught of Manning news just keeps coming. "It's hard not to pay attention. It seems to be all over the news everywhere and I don't live in a cave," said Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, the presumed successor to Manning. "You never really replace someone like that," he added. "He (Manning) is such an iconic sports figure especially for this city, this area. From what I understand, he's done so many great things outside of football and in the community."
Here are some of Monday's top stories in Chicago sports:
“That’s what we’re supposed to look like,” Joe Maddon said Monday night after a 6-4 loss where the San Francisco Giants scored the first six runs and Wrigley Field got loudest for the David Ross “Dancing with the Stars” look-in on the big video board, at least until a late flurry from the Cubs.
But for a manager always looking for the silver linings, Maddon could replay Addison Russell’s diving stop to his right and strong throw from deep in the hole at shortstop to take a hit away from Christian Arroyo. Or Albert Almora’s spectacular flying catch near the warning track in center field. Or Anthony Rizzo stealing another hit from Brandon Belt with a diving backhanded play near the first-base line.
The highlight reel became a reminder of how the Cubs won 103 games and the World Series last year – and made you wonder why the 2017 team hasn’t played the same consistently excellent defense with largely the same group of personnel.
“Concentration?” Jason Heyward said, quickly dismissing the theory a defensive decline could boil down to focus or effort. “No shot. No shot. It is what it is when it comes to people asking questions about last year having effects, this and that. But this is a new season.
“The standard is still high. What’s our excuse? We played later than anybody? That may buy you some time, but then what?
“The goals stay the same. We just got to find new ways to do it when you have a different team.”
FiveThirtyEight.com, Nate Silver’s statistical website, framed the question this way after the Cubs allowed the lowest batting average on balls in play ever last season, an analysis that goes all the way back to 1871: “Have the Cubs Forgotten How to Field?”
Even if the Cubs don’t set records and make history, they should still be better than 23rd in the majors in defensive efficiency, with 37 errors through 43 games. The Cubs have already allowed 28 unearned runs after giving up 45 all last season.
“We just got to stay on it and keep focusing and not let the miscues go to our head,” Ben Zobrist said. “We just have to keep working hard and staying focused in the field. A lot of that’s the rhythm of the game. I blame a lot of that on the early parts of the season and the weather and a lot of difficult things that we’ve been going through.
“If we’re not hitting the ball well, too, we’re a young team still, and you can carry that into the field. You don’t want to let that happen, but it’s part of the game. You got to learn to move beyond miscues and just focus on the next play.”
Heyward, a four-time Gold Glove winner, missed two weeks with a sprained right finger and has already started nine times in center field (after doing that 21 times all last season). Zobrist has morphed back into a super-utility guy, starting 16 games at second base and 15 in two different outfield spots.
Maddon has tried to drill the idea of making the routine play into Javier Baez’s head, so that the uber-talented second baseman can allow his natural athleticism and instincts to take over during those dazzling moments.
The Cubs are basically hoping Kyle Schwarber keeps the ball in front of him in left and setting the bar at: Don’t crash into your center fielder. Like Schwarber and Almora, catcher Willson Contreras hasn’t played a full season in The Show yet, and the Cubs are now hoping Ian Happ can become a Zobrist-type defender all over the field.
“I’m seeing our guys playing in a lot of different places,” Heyward said. “It’s not just been penciling in every day who’s going to center field or right field or left field. We did shake things up some last year, but we did it kind of later in the season. We had guys settle in, playing every day. This year, I feel like we’re having guys in different spots.
“It’s May whatever, (but) it seems like we haven’t really had a chance to settle in yet. Not that we’re procrastinating by any means, but it’s just been a lot of moving pieces.”
The Giants won World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014 with a formula that incorporated lights-out pitching, airtight defense and just enough clutch pitching. The Cubs are now a 22-21 team trying to figure it out again.
“Defense comes and goes, just like pitching,” said Kris Bryant, the reigning National League MVP, in part, because of his defensive versatility. “I feel like if you look at last year, it’s kind of hard to compare, just because it was so good. We spoiled everybody last year. Now we’re a complete letdown this year.”
Bryant paused and said: “Just kidding. Different years, things regress, things progress, and that’s just how it goes sometimes.”