This was a live blog of the Peyton Manning-Jim Irsay press conference that began at noon in Indianapolis.
Peyton Manning was emotional as he spoke of the only NFL team he has played for, his life in Indianapolis and Colts fans in a press conference at which it was announced that he will be released by the team.
Manning has played for the Colts since he was drafted in 1998 and both he and owner Jim Irsay struggled with their composure as they discussed their decision to part in a 20-minute press conference at Colts headquarters.
The most touching moment — and there were plenty of them — came when Manning, choking up, said he had “a few words I want to address to Colts fans everywhere. Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart. I truly have enjoyed being your quarterback. Thank you.”
Manning stressed that he is not about to retire, that his recovery from neck surgery is continuing. Manning also has not considered which NFL team will be the second he plays for. “I haven’t thought about where I’ll play, but I have thought about where I’ve been. I’ve been blessed to be here.”
12:16 p.m.: Manning used the word “blessed” repeatedly to describe his feeling about having spent 14 years — 13 seasons — with the Colts. Asked about his health, after multiple neck surgeries, and the slow regeneration of the nerve in his triceps, said: “I’m feeling closer and closer [to being back to form]. ... I have to remind myself it is March [about six months after his cervical fusion]. But it’s starting to feel like home [being on a football field and throwing]. I still have some work to do.”
Retirement isn’t a consideration for Manning, who will turn 36 on March 24.
“I don’t want to retire. I don’t feel like I have anything to prove. Nobody loves their job more than I do,” Manning said. “Nobody loves playing quarterback more than I do. ... Nobody has had it better than I’ve had it playing for the Indianapolis Colts the last 14 years.”
12:05 p.m.: Manning picked up where Jim Irsay left off, making an emotional statement and struggling to keep his composure in check.
“I sure have loved playing football for the Indianapolis Colts. For the last 14 years, the only professional football team I have known is the Indianapolis Colts.
“I’ve been a Colt for almost all my adult life. But I guess in life and in sports, we all know nothing lasts forever. That’s the reality of playing in the NFL.”
Manning said that he and Irsay have spoken frequently and both realized that “circumstances” — compelling circumstances that Irsay also cited — dictated the mutual decision.
“I do love it here,” Manning said of Indianapolis, breaking up as he spoke. “I do love the fans. I leave the Colts with nothing but good thoughts and gratitude to Jim, the team, the media and the fans.
“I haven’t thought about where I’ll play, but I have thought about where I’ve been. I’ve been blessed to be here.”
Manning wrapped up his statement, before taking media questions, by saying “a few words to Colts fans everywhere. Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart. I truly have enjoyed being your quarterback. Thank you.”
Manning stressed that he doesn’t really know how the free agency process will play out but doesn’t plan to abandon Indianapolis, where the Children’s Hospital is named for him, and added, “I’ll always be a Colt.”
Noon: Jim Irsay spoke first, talking about the role that Peyton Manning has played with the franchise. This is “a difficult day of shared pain between Peyton, myself, the fans, everyone. ... The ‘18’ jersey will never be worn again by a Colt on the field. This has been a long and difficult process.”
Irsay stressed “we both wanted to be together,” but “circumstances were to difficult to overcome” with those circumstances being the salary cap and Manning’s neck injury.
“As difficult as this day is, it’s made difficult by the things that Peyton has done for our team, our city, our state our franchise,” Irsay said. “There will be no other Peyton Manning. Over the last decade and a half, we’ve been so blessed to have him.”
And, with that Irsay choked up and began to cry a bit, saying, “he’s always part of the horseshoe.”
11:45 a.m.: After what Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said was a “long, emotional flight” to Indy with quarterback Peyton Manning on Tuesday night, this figures to be an even longer, more emotional day.
He and Manning will address the impending release of No. 18 by the team after 13 seasons, a moment that was all but unthinkable a year ago. Manning has been the face of the franchise since 1998, winning a Super Bowl and four times being named the league MVP. It was impossible to imagine that he would be released — until he missed all of last season because of a neck injury. In his absence, the team went 2-14 and got the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, opening the possibility of taking Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. That hastened the departure of Manning, due a $28 million bonus this week.
Manning, who will become the most coveted free agent to hit the market in years, has been recovering from multiple neck surgeries, including cervical fusion. Although he has been cleared to play football, his triceps nerve has taken a while to regenerate. He hasn’t spoken much about his progress — although a video was released last week — since the Super Bowl.
As for Irsay, expect him to talk about Andrew Luck, the Stanford quarterback the team is expected to take with the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft next month. “It was a long, emotional flight,” Irsay tweeted early this morning, “... now the sun is trying to rise.”
Afterward, the courtship of Peyton Manning will begin for a half-dozen or so NFL teams, particularly the Washington Redskins
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