At almost every turn, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning knows the right thing to say.
He respects his opponents. He expresses a cautious confidence. He lauds the accomplishments of his teammates.
Sure, some people thought he slipped when he made a remark about "pass protection" following the Pittsburgh game, but only because they twisted it into a personal attack on his offensive line -- and it wasn't.
And now, while preparing for the Pro Bowl, he's been asked again about his thoughts on the Colts re-signing Edgerrin James in a year where it's going to be very difficult. Ironically, Manning is part of the reason it's going to be tough for the Colts to bring James back with a tightening salary cap situation in Indy. While he has a very cap-friendly salary of $1 million, he will receive a $9 million roster bonus. And few would argue that he deserves it.
Manning is obviously hoping that the Colts will find the way to bring James back. Just listen to him "talk the talk" regarding this subject.
"He's been a great teammate, and I'm personally indebted to him," he said this week. "I actually pray for the Colts to find a way to keep him. I mean, I don't normally ask for stuff like that. I'll pray for my family, things like that, but I've actually found myself praying about Edge.
"We were sitting by the pool the other day, talking about what might happen, and I got semi-emotional about it."
Manning sounds like a man who is totally helpless to toss his sinking teammate a life preserver, and that's just not the case. If he want's to "walk the talk" and get serious about James being in Indy, he could -- and should -- offer to restructure his deal to help make it happen. He's already made more money in his pro career than most people could spend in a lifetime.
Or he should stop losing sleep over it and expressing such angst in the press, and move on.
And Manning's not alone in this. Marvin Harrison will actually hit the cap for more than Manning, and Corey Simon will deal it a hefty blow as well. That trio of handsomely paid Colts could pull together and help keep "The Triplets" in Indianapolis for another Super Bowl run or two.
Maybe that's already in the works or at least being bantered about. I sure hope so. Because James deserves to be treated with the same respect that the other two "Triplets" have received in recent years with their new contracts.
Cardinals' quarterback Kurt Warner was recently lobbying publicly on the radio for his team to make a play for James during the offseason. In a column at FoxSports.com, Al Bogdan and Vivek Ramgopal tossed out some possible scenarios for big-name free agents. They speculated that with New England's growing concern over Corey Dillon's productivity, perhaps Bill Belichick would go for the Colts' jugular and try to sign James away to pair up with Tom Brady. Now wouldn't that be a real kick in the teeth for the Colts?
In any case, James seems convinced that he will be wearing another uniform next season. And despite all the flowery, heartfelt words from his teammates, he obviously has little confidence that any of them will be a factor in helping resolve the problem that some of them are contributing to. And yet, he doesn't sound the least bit resentful towards them or Colts management.
"I'm just a realist, that's all," he said. "And I think I know what the reality will be."
The Colts have developed a real "good guy" image over the past few years. They've shown character in the face of adversity and class at practically every turn. Well, it's time for Manning, Harrison, Simon -- and anyone else who can afford it -- to form a posse and walk right into Colts president Bill Polian's office and tell him what they're willing to do regarding the Edgerrin James contract issue.
The Colts are an extraordinary team, and this situation calls for an extraordinary resolution.
They have a chance to set yet an example of how teammates can truly become family and do all that they can to keep the core of that family intact. Or they can be like every other team, hang their heads and lament what "could have been" had they just not been held hostage by the notorious salary cap.
If they haven't already been laying the groundwork for those discussions, I sure hope they reach down inside themselves and find the fortitude to do it -- and soon. Because the days are passing and it will soon be too late. And they will lose a teammate who certainly increases their likelihood of completing their quest for the Lombardi Trophy.