Peyton Manning has made far more than his share of spectacular comebacks in his NFL career.
This time, however, the clock has run out on him.
The Indianapolis Colts will release Manning on Wednesday, parting ways with the only four-time most valuable player in league history.
The team has scheduled a news conference for 9 a.m. PST.
Manning sat out the 2011 season after undergoing multiple neck surgeries, and the Colts finished 2-14, securing the No. 1 pick in April’s draft. By all indications, the franchise intends to use the top pick on Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.
Manning, who turns 36 this month, has said he intends to continue his career, either in Indianapolis or elsewhere. Neither he nor Colts owner Jim Irsay could be reached for comment.
“It’s a shock to me if the Colts let him go,” Hall of Fame coach John Madden told The Times on Tuesday. “I could never see Peyton Manning playing anywhere except as an Indianapolis Colt.
“I thought all this past season he’d come back and play. It got right to the end of the season, just a couple of games left, and I thought he even may play in one of those games. Obviously that wasn’t close. Then even in the off-season I thought something would get worked out and he’d be a Colt. But if this happens, it’s going to be a shock to me.”
Among the teams expected to bid for his services are the Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, Seattle Seahawks and New York Jets. All of those teams probably would insist on incentive-filled contracts that hedge against the possibility that Manning does not recover sufficiently from his neck problems.
But one NFL team executive predicts Manning will get the type of money to which he’s accustomed.
“It’s not going to be a cheap deal, believe me,” the executive said. “He’s going to get paid. He’s not going to get $20 million, but he’ll have a chance to make that up with playing time to where he’d be made whole if he plays like he’s played.”
Under the terms of Manning’s existing deal, the Colts would have to pay him a $28-million roster bonus to keep him. Team doctors have not cleared him to return to football, although his personal doctors have.
Manning has been engaged in not-so-secret workouts at Duke University, and a grainy, short video clip appears to show him throwing the ball well. So far, however, most of the reports come in the form of rumors and speculation.
“My plan hasn’t changed,” Manning said during Super Bowl week. “I’m on track with what the doctors have told me to do, and I’m doing that. I’m rehabbing hard.”
At the scouting combine last month, Luck was asked about the challenge of replacing a first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback.
“Peyton was my hero growing up,” he said. “He was my football hero. That’s who I modeled myself after in high school, middle school, whatever it was. You never truly replace a guy like that. And who knows what happens? So many different things can happen. I’m not thinking about it too much right now.”