By MIKE BEAS
ANDERSON, Ind. — The bull’s-eye positioned between Peyton Manning’s shoulder blades has grown larger, not to mention easier to reach.
With mammoth left tackle Tarik Glenn cementing the rumor that he’s played his final NFL game, there exists the possibility Baltimore Ravens defensive end Trevor Pryce will drown in his own saliva.
Same goes for New Orleans’ Will Smith, Carolina’s Julius Peppers, Oakland’s Derrick Burgess and every other established pass rusher on the Indianapolis Colts’ 2007 regular-season schedule.
Grown men whose job description includes forcing overthrows, underthrows, fumbles, picks and sacks by scaring the living daylights out of opposing quarterbacks now spot slight glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel.
The 31-year-old Manning, a portrait of endurance with 144 consecutive career starts behind center and the unofficial NFL poster boy, is more vulnerable than ever.
Big No. 78, the bodyguard, is gone.
To steal a line from “Forrest Gump”: Run, Peyton! Run!
It would seem impossible for a 332-pound mass of humanity to go virtually unnoticed over a decade of league service, but that’s basically what Glenn was able to do in 154 regular-season starts, a feat that on its own is almost worthy of Hall of Fame discussion.
Really, is there a better attribute for an offensive lineman than invisibility?
For most of Glenn’s career, the only time Indianapolis fans were able to lace words with hemlock were when the big tackle false-started, costing the Colts offense 5 yards of valuable real estate.
Frustrated, we would boo or call Glenn some name that in hindsight didn’t even make sense.
But back he would come, warding off those thirsting to snap Manning in two or clearing running paths for the likes of Edgerrin James, Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai.
But because Glenn was an offensive lineman, a glory-less gig that includes no statistical data spectators can cling to, we failed to notice. After all, isn’t that what the guy is paid to do?
Linemen can play for winners, just not win in the court of public opinion. Glenn, a Pro Bowl selection in 2005 and 2007, is no exception.
Manning is the face of the Colts franchise, the commercial-maker, the “SNL” host. The star. No one disputes this, nor do they downplay the brilliance of receivers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne and defensive end Dwight Freeney or past Indianapolis Pro Bowlers such as James and placekicker Mike Vanderjagt.
Furthermore, Indianapolis head coach Tony Dungy, a devout Christian, has greatly broadened his national audience in recent years with a best-selling book and a desire to share with others the role his faith plays in his life.
By comparison, we’ve heard very little from Tarik Glenn over the years. Rest assure, though, the first time this season Manning is spotted pulling chunks of sod off his facemask after getting planted by some 290-pound whirlwind, Glenn’s name will surface.
“Man, I wish ...” is how the sentence will begin.
Should Glenn someday get voted into the NFL Hall of Fame, these three words are how Manning should start his introduction speech.
Yes, Manning. Glenn had his quarterback’s back all those years, so it’s only fitting Manning return the favor.
Mike Beas writes for The Herald-Bulletin in Anderson, Ind.