A Saturday practice at Lucas Oil Stadium that was open to fans added plenty of extra positive energy to the Colts' three-day mandatory minicamp that ended Sunday. But sources on the scene said there was no denying the camp-long concern created by the absences of three Pro Bowlers — WR Reggie Wayne, DE Robert Mathis and FS Antonie Bethea. Both Wayne and Mathis, who each have two years left on their current contracts, have gone public with their desire for new deals. Bethea, meanwhile, is a restricted free agent who has yet to sign the Colts' one-year-tender of $2.521 million.
"I'd say everybody is acting mildly concerned," one source said. "But there's no absolute hand-wringing going on, and there's a feeling everybody will get taken care of. It's just a matter of when and to what extent."
Acknowledging the situation, Colts team president Bill Polian indicated that the current uncertainty in the last year of the league's Collective Bargaining Agreement makes it unlikely the Colts will be able to reach new deals with any of the players anytime soon. "It's a jigsaw puzzle, and as one piece fits in then another falls in place and another falls in place," Polian said. "… What does one piece do to all the other pieces? No one knows until the parties sit down and hammer it (a new CBA) out."
The consensus is that the key piece in the Colts' puzzle is the new deal that team owner Jim Irsay has promised will be given to franchise centerpiece Peyton Manning sometime this offseason. Polian said over the weekend that a timetable for talks with Manning's agent, Tom Condon, had not yet been scheduled. The way our sources see it, after Manning eventually signs for what figures to be a record-breaking amount, Polian and the Colts will systematically address the demands of Wayne, Bethea and Mathis — in that order.
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