You cannot make this stuff up: When Archie Manning played quarterback for the Saints during the 1980s, he was sacked more than 300 times. On Wednesday, the current offensive line sent him to collect the inaugural "Madden Most Valuable Protectors Award" on its behalf.
"I never really wanted to know that number," Manning said about the sacks, laughing. "It's probably not a record, but I had a pretty good average going. It was around 40 or 50, and a lot of the times, it was my fault."
The trophy was handed out during Super Bowl week and inspired by Pro Football Hall of Fame coach and longtime broadcaster John Madden, himself a former NFL lineman. He said that while individual linemen receive recognition on occasion, it was time the entire line gets the recognition it deserves.
The offensive line helped the Saints lead the league in scoring and yards per game, averaging 31.9 points and 403.8 yards.
OWNER SAYS NFL FACING PROBLEMS: Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said Wednesday that several NFL owners are facing a financial shortfall that could create "long-term problems for the league" and ultimately result in a lockout.
As the Ravens prepare for a 2010 season without a salary cap, Bisciotti hinted the NFL could shut down in March 2011 if concessions aren't made by the players union in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement.
Speaking at a news conference in which team officials looked back at last season and ahead to 2010, Bisciotti insisted many of the 32 NFL teams are struggling to finish in the black.
"I've got partners out there right now whose teams are making less money than their linebackers. I think we've got an acute problem here with the general profitability of the teams," Bisciotti said. "We always knew this was not a big cash-flow business, but when you've got guys like Jacksonville tarping up 10,000 seats to stop blackouts, when you've got teams that are voluntarily staying at the minimum of what they have to spend on the salary cap in order to not go upside down financially, then we already have a structural problem."
Three years ago, the owners and players union signed a CBA that Bisciotti labeled "a bad deal" for the owners.
FREENEY MISSES PRACTICE: The Indianapolis Colts' first practice in South Florida followed the script.
Injured defensive end Dwight Freeney wasn't on the field. Injured cornerback Jerraud Powers was on the sideline, and four-time league MVP Peyton Manning looked like his old self Wednesday.
Manning completed all nine passes and threw for a touchdown against the scout team's nickel defense, his first practice at the Miami Dolphins' facility since the Colts reached the Super Bowl three years ago.
None of it, including the Colts' decision to go without pads, was a surprise.
"We've played 22 games this year," coach Jim Caldwell said. "I want them to be nice and hungry come Sunday. If they needs pads this time of year ..."
Freeney, the All-Pro defensive end, has a torn ligament in his right ankle and is listed as questionable for Sunday's game against New Orleans. Powers, a rookie, has a left foot injury.
Both were expected to sit out Wednesday.
Indy listed 19 players on its injury report. Freeney and Powers were the only players who sat out. Caldwell wouldn't predict whether Freeney would play Sunday, though he was more optimistic about Powers.
"Not certain yet," Caldwell said. "But I can tell you this, he's moving in the right direction."
The Colts installed most of the game plan while at home last week.
SAINTS PRACTICING: The New Orleans Saints looked healthy and active in their practice Wednesday, with starters Jeremy Shockey, Darren Sharper and Jonathan Vilma all participating,
Each of them has been bothered by knee problems, but played in the NFC championship game. Tight end Shockey, safety Sharper, and linebacker Vilma worked in all the key drills.
INDY SCHOOL TO START LATER ON MONDAY: Students in Indianapolis Public Schools are allowed to sleep in a bit Monday thanks to a one-hour delay scheduled to give bus drivers more time to get to work the morning after the Super Bowl. But they'll have to make up for half the lost time.
The state's largest school district initially scheduled a two-hour delay but changed course after the Indiana Department of Education said such delays should only be used for emergency situations. State Superintendent Tony Bennett said that because Sunday night's game between the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints didn't qualify for an automatic waiver for emergency two-hour delays, missed time would have to be made up.
RYAN WILL NOT BE FINED BY NFL: New York Jets coach Rex Ryan will not be fined by the NFL for making an obscene gesture at a mixed martial arts event last weekend.
League spokesman Greg Aiello confirmed to The Associated Press in an e-mail Wednesday that Ryan would not face additional discipline by the NFL after the Jets fined him $50,000 on Tuesday.