Although he is not even involved in Sunday’s Super Bowl game, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning continues to be a prime topic of conversation.
And as the soap opera continues to steal plenty of headlines away from the game itself those in Indianapolis who cover the Colts closely believe that Manning’s days with the Colts are numbered.
“This is over. Has been for a while,” Bob Kravitz writes in the Indianapolis Star.
Following reports on Thursday from various news organizations, including ESPN, that the star quarterback has been cleared to play by two surgeons, Colts owner Jim Irsay said that is not the case.
“Peyton has not passed our physical nor has he been cleared to play for the Indianapolis Colts,” Irsay tweeted early on Friday.
Irsay went on to say that a further team statement would be issued later on Friday.
Manning, the four-time league MVP, sat out the entire 2011 season after having his third neck surgery in 19 months, a fusion of two vertebrae. There have been concerns that the injury might end Manning's 14-year NFL career.
Manning told reporters earlier in the week his recovery is progressing and that he was not planning on retiring.
A statement released Thursday by Dr. Robert Watkins Sr., who performed Manning’s most recent neck surgery back in September, appeared to bolster the quarterback’s claim.
The statement, issued through Dr. Watkins public relations company, said that Manning recently underwent a thorough medical re-evaluation.
“As a result of this examination, Manning is medically cleared to play professional football,” said the statement.
Irsay’s twitter feed early on Friday has only added to the confusion.
Wrote Kravitz: “After listening to Manning Monday night, after listening to owner Jim Irsay characterize Manning Thursday as “a politician” who should keep his concerns “in house,” there's no other conclusion to be reached by a sane, sober human being: Manning's days in Indianapolis are over, and they have been over for quite some time.”
The Colts owe Manning a $28-million roster bonus on March 8. If they don't pay it, they could risk losing him in free agency.
The Colts also have the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NFL draft an are expected to take highly-regarded college quarterback star Andrew Luck.