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Posted at 03:34 PM ET, 01/31/2012

Peyton Manning “encouraged that I’ll be cleared and ready to go”

An Eli Manning fan dares raise the name of Peyton Manning at Super Bowl Media Day in Indianapolis. (Scott Halleran / Getty Images)
Peyton Manning begs to differ with those who fear his football career is over.

In an interview with ESPN’s Trey Wingo, the Indianapolis Colts — for now — quarterback said that he expects “to be cleared and ready to go” in 2012.

Peyton Manning ... filled with optimism. (Phelan M. Ebenhack / AP)
Manning, who said he’d have preferred not to have addressed this issue during Super Bowl Week, particularly when his younger brother is playing in the game, said his recovery is on target. “I really feel good. I continue to make progress every day. Everything that the doctors have told me has been on point, which is encouraging to me. I just had a great day today of rehab, I just got back from the facility. That’s what I’m going to continue to do, just keep trying to get better. So far I have. That’s the plan from here on out.”

Manning was asked what he needs to hear from doctors about the prospect of resuming a dangerous profession after having had three neck surgeries. “The doctors and I have been in good, constant communication and we’re on the same page and I’m very encouraged by what they’ve said. I’ll see these guys for some check-ups throughout the next few weeks. Everything they’re saying, though, is everything is right on point, everything looks good, that I’ll be cleared and ready go to. So that’s encouraging to me.”

Manning’s athletic future has been the subject of rumors, counter rumors and counter-counter rumors and Rob Lowe speculation since he underwent cervical fusion surgery in early September and missed the 2011 season. The latest report, from Jason Cole of Yahoo, indicated that those close to Manning do not believe he will play again and he was not asked about that report in the ESPN interview.

Manning, who will turn 36 in late March, was asked how much longer he thought he could play. “Hard to say, hard to say. [There's] no set timetable. I really don't. I've played a long time. I'm grateful for the time that I've played so far, and I have nothing to complain about. How much longer, we'll see.”

March 8 is the next big date looming for Manning, who must be paid a $28 million bonus by the Colts or released. He told Wingo that, while he will have dinner with Colts owner Jim Irsay on Thursday night in Indianapolis, that subject isn’t likely to be discussed. He does not, though, think the decision will go down to the wire.

“I think the sooner the better, I really do,” he said. “Jim and I talk constantly, we really do. We're in constant communication, and after this week is over, we'll do it, and we'll make a good plan from there. Either way, it's going to be good. I'm at peace, and it'll be a positive thing, I can assure you.”

It isn’t likely to come this week, not with Eli Manning and the Giants playing in the Super Bowl on Sunday in Peyton’s city. Manning said he and Irsay would speak “at the appropriate time, and when we do, I think some decisions will be made after that. But until then I'm just continuing to rehab, work hard, and to enjoy this week because it really is a special week for the city and certainly for my family.”

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By  |  03:34 PM ET, 01/31/2012

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