If Peyton Manning is finished in football, it’s news to him.
In an interview with Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star, the Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback did acknowledge that upheaval within the franchise is disconcerting and that his own future, with the Colts and in football, is uncertain. The vibe right now in Indy? Very weird.
“Everybody [is] walking around on eggshells. I don't recognize our building right now. There's such complete and total change,” Manning said.
The Colts are in a state of flux, with the firing of Bill Polian and Chris Polian in the front office and Jim Caldwell as coach. Ryan Grigson is the new general manager and owner Jim Irsay has promised that a coach will be named soon.
“One of the things about football is, it’s a relationship business. Sometimes guys get fired, it goes across the ticker, ‘Jim Caldwell got fired’ and that’s that. But when it’s every day in a relationship business ... with Bill [Polian], with Marvin [Harrison], Edge [James], guys who retire, get cut, traded or fired, it’s just really hard. I don’t think I have an emotion for it.
“The new [management] team doesn’t have a relationship with these guys like I do, and I know a lot of players feel that way about them [the departing coaches], too,” Manning said. “I mean, it’s 20 degrees, it’s snowing, the building is absolutely empty except when you see coaches cleaning out their offices. I guess it’s the reality of the football world, just not something I’ve had to deal with very often. But I’m in there every day, so I have to sit there and see it. Everybody’s being evaluated and I’m no different. It’s not the best environment.
“I just want to pay tribute to all those guys. It’s unfortunate because so many of them have been such a big part of so many big wins here, and this is so ... sudden. Their keys didn’t work the next day. There’s no other way to do it? I don’t know. That’s hard to see, all these people leaving.
“And I may be behind them. Who knows?’’
Certainly not Rob Lowe, despite his tweets.
“I never thought Sodapop Curtis would announce my retirement,’’ Manning said of Lowe and the character he played in “The Outsiders.” Lowe sent the world into a dither last week with a tweet about Manning’s impending retirement. “I always thought I would be the one to announce it. I’m a huge fan of the movie, but that caught me way off guard. I can’t explain it. I know [Lowe] is a friend of Jim’s, and Jim sounded surprised.”
Manning, as his father has indicated, is comfortable in Indy and would like to play his entire career with the Colts. But the team is expected to take a quarterback, presumably Andrew Luck, with the No. 1 pick in the draft. Manning missed all of the 2011 season after having cervical vertebrae surgery, his third neck procedure in 19 months, in September. Manning is due a $28 million payment on March 8 and, amid all the change, it has been certain that Irsay will determine his quarterback’s future in Indy.
“One thing he [Grigson] kind-of, sort-of told me, without really wanting to tell me, was that Irsay will be the guy I'm going to sit down and talk with,” Manning said. “That's going to happen at some point, but we haven't had that conversation yet because we really don't need to have that conversation yet.”
That payment, and his future, will be determined by his health. “You know I don't like to say something like, ‘There’s no way I can play Sunday,’ then come out and play Sunday and everybody in the media is writing ‘I can’t believe he’s playing,’ ” Manning said. “I'm not into the drama. And I'm not into saying, ‘Well, this is it, I sure have enjoyed it.’ I'm not into saying goodbye. All I know is I'm still under contract to the Colts. I'm still the quarterback of the Colts. That's why I'm in the building every day trying to get healthy.”
He promises there’ll be no popularity contest with Irsay. “I don’t want to get into some kind of fan campaign with the owner, but I think it’s well documented that I want to play in the same place my whole career,’’ Manning said. “It’s been a privilege to play here. I love the fans, the city, the transformation of the fans, how our place has become the toughest stadium to play in, the fact our fans wear more jerseys to games than anybody else. It’s been fun to be a part of that.
“But I understand how it works. I understand tough decisions have to be made. There’s personal and there’s business and that’s where we’ve got to separate the two. I’ve seen other guys leave places and it was personal. I’ve invested too much into this city for that to happen. We live here, we’ve given lots of time and money to the community and our church, and that’s never going to change. Nothing changes that.”
Peyton on Eli: “I couldn’t be more proud”
Eli on Peyton: New York is big enough for both
Peyton’s future: Caldwell firing furthers uncertainty