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Decision about Manning comes down to business for Colts

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Peyton Manning’s football future is being decided by a $28 million bonus, his surgically fused neck and a highly praised college quarterback, ending a record-setting era that produced a Super Bowl title for the Indianapolis Colts.

The club where Manning has played his entire career will release the four-time National Football League Most Valuable Player without paying him the bonus, ESPN and other sources reported Tuesday night, citing unidentified people in the league.

The 35-year-old Manning would become the NFL’s premier free agent, with Nevada oddsmakers saying he’s headed for the Arizona Cardinals.

Manning is coming off neck-fusion surgery that sidelined him for the 2011 season. Colts doctor Robert Watkins said the Sept. 9 operation was successful. Without Manning, the Colts finished 2-14 and gained the NFL’s No. 1 draft pick, which they have said they will use to take Andrew Luck, the 22-year- old Stanford University quarterback rated as the top prospect by ESPN’s Scouts Inc.

Manning, no matter where he winds up, probably will be uninsurable to cover his salary because of his age and injury history, Frank Zuccarello, executive vice president at Exceptional Risk Advisors LLC in Mahwah, N.J. said.

“I can’t imagine anyone even thinking about covering him,” Zuccarello said. “I would think it would be impossible. It would have to come with exclusions for neck and shoulder.”

Zuccarello said if a policy were sold to a team, the premiums could be more than 5 percent of the insured amount, compared with 2 percent for a young, healthy player. With all the exclusions, it wouldn’t be worth it.

Tom Condon, Manning’s agent, didn’t immediately return a telephone message seeking comment on the player’s status. Manning has said he plans to keep playing.

Manning has a 17-percent chance of signing with the Cardinals, according to the Cal Neva Resort’s sports book in Reno, Nev. The Miami Dolphins are second at 14.5 percent, with the Washington Redskins third at 11.5 percent. A winning $100 bet on Arizona returns that stake plus $250.

Indianapolis was 3-13 in 1997 before making Manning the league’s No. 1 draft pick out of the University of Tennessee. The Colts had the same record during Manning’s rookie year before going 13-3 in 1999. Indianapolis won the Super Bowl in February 2007.

MVP Record

Manning, a five-time All-Pro, was named the league’s MVP for the 2003, 2004, 2008 and 2009 campaigns, the most in NFL history.

His 54,828 yards passing, 4,682 completions and 399 touchdowns are third on the NFL career list, trailing leader Brett Favre and Dan Marino in each category. While Favre is also the NFL’s career leader with 336 interceptions and Marino ranks eighth with 252, Manning has just 198, placing him 26th.

Manning had at least three operations on his neck over the last two years. Sports Illustrated, citing unidentified people in the NFL, said last month that the quarterback had a fourth procedure to follow up a May operation for a bulging disk.

Former Redskins General Manager Charley Casserly, now an analyst with CBS Sports, said teams probably will want Manning to sign an incentive-laden contract with a smaller base salary and fewer guarantees. Signing bonuses are paid up front and guaranteed, unlike most base salaries in the NFL.

“You don’t mind paying if the guy plays, but you want to do it on a game-by-game basis with a minimum salary and then either a play-time or weekly roster bonus,” Casserly said.

Andrew Brandt, a former Green Bay Packers executive now an NFL business analyst on ESPN, says teams will want to sign Manning if he is a free agent. The competition might shift the risk back onto Manning’s suitors.

“He’ll have the leverage to get guarantees of millions plus incentives,” Brandt said.

NFL teams aren’t permitted to discuss signing players under contract elsewhere.

Manning signed a five-year contract in July that paid a $20 million signing bonus and a base salary of $6.4 million. He sat out the 2011 NFL season while recovering from the neck injury, ending a streak of 227 consecutive starts.

The Colts have until 4 p.m. Wednesday to exercise the option and keep Manning through 2015. They would then owe him the $28 million bonus plus a $7.4 million salary in 2012, bringing his two-year earnings to $61.8 million, according to Brandt, president of the National Football Post, who analyzed the contract on his website.

The Colts probably would pay Luck $15 million in bonus and salary in the first year. With Manning, that would have meant a commitment to the team’s top two quarterbacks of more than $50 million next season, Brandt said. Luck guided Stanford to an 11- 1 record and passed for 3,170 yards and 35 touchdowns last season.

Brandt said he bought an insurance policy for Favre when the Pro Bowl quarterback signed an agreement with the Packers in March 2001. Favre, then 31 and a three-time MVP, was young and healthy.

Jeffrey Fischgrund, an orthopedic surgeon and editor-in- chief of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, said the bones above and below a spinal fusion usually compensate for the fused bones, allowing the neck to move normally. He said that 95 percent of people who have the surgery heal successfully and don’t experience further injuries at that site.

“Theoretically, he’s at an increased risk,” Fischgrund, who hasn’t examined Manning, said. “But not so much that you’d expect a catastrophic injury.”

The biggest issue is Manning’s arm strength. Fischgrund said the longer Manning suffers weakness, the longer it will take to make a full recovery. It usually takes a year before people know if they are going to get their full strength back, he said.

“I tell patients, ‘I can’t make you normal, but I can make you better,’” Fischgrund said. “Whether that’s enough for a professional athlete, I can’t say.”

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  • Peyton Fan
    Jim Irsay is a liar, and I have lost all respect for him. I've been a fan of the Colts since they moved to Indy, even through the bad years before Peyton, partly because the management and players, with a few exceptions, earned our loyalty and respect both on and off the field. But I cannot continue to support a team whose management has so little respect for the team's fans that it lies outright to us so easily and makes decisions like this. Irsay said so long as Peyton plays football, it would be in a Colts uniform. LIE! He could have made that happen, but he choose otherwise (probably following the advice of the new GM, who is getting off scot free but I believe bears much of the responsibility for this callous decision). Even in the press conference on Wednesday, in one breath, Irsay said it's not about money, and in the next, he talked about the salary cap. LIE! If that $28 million bonus was not there, we all know the Colts would have kept Peyton. If Andrew Luck is such a great prospect, he could only have gotten better by having the opportunity to learn the NFL game from the best quarterback who every played it, and the Colts could have found a way to make it work if they wanted to. Peyton, on the other hand, is a real class act, and Indy will miss him greatly! He is an extremely intelligent man, and I believe he would not continue to play if he believed he was not healthy enough to do so or if it was that risky to do so. I look forward to having a new team to cheer for and follow, and that will be whichever team Peyton is playing for this fall. Good luck, Peyton! Here's wishing you another Super Bowl victory in the very near future! As for the Colts, I doubt if they'll win more than four games next season, and I really don't care anymore.
  • manning did not take 3-4 years
    To Indy 60, I get where you are coming from, but I don't agree...first of all, if Luck is as good as advertized (if you have seen him play you would know this...he can make all the throws and he is a far better athlete than Manning...nothing is guaranteed, but he is as close to a sure thing as you can get), it won't take 3-4 years. It only took Peyton one year...his second year the Colts made the playoffs, and you would never have believed that if you watched him play in his first year. You are living in a dream world...you can't pay a guy who can't play 28 million dollars, and pay the future quarterback also. Irsay paid him last year to not play, he owes Peyton nothing except gratitude for what he has done for the franchise...paid him $26 million last year, call it gratitude payment, whatever. If Peyton can eventually play and does well elsewhere, good for him...even he could not get the Colts to the playoffs next year. The team is rebuilding, that was obvious from the second the Polians were given pink slips, and if sentimental fans did not realize that they were ignoring the obvious. Second, this article pointed out some obvious truths you have apparently missed...if you read the article, it spells it out...$50 million for two players? Who else can you get if you have that much wrapped up in quarterbacks (and surely you don't think after last year that the Colts don't need to draft a quarterback), there are 51 other players on the roster, and some of those 51 keep the QB from getting killed, maybe we should spend some money on some of those positions...not only that, read on...the teams who employ him can't insure him (doesn't that tell you something different than all these doctors who are saying he can play at no higher risk than you or me? Obviously the insurance companies disagree with that assessment, they think because he has had 4 neck surgeries and is 36 and slow as dirt that he is much more at risk)...have you been paying any attention to the "bounty" system in New Orleans? Do you think opposing teams are not trying to knock the quarterback out of the game? Do you think that the bonuses that teams pay to defensive players for sacks and knockdowns are not an NFL approved form of bounty?. From my perspective, Irsay did Peyton a huge favor...he has an injured neck...he has more money than he would ever need, two young kids...defensive guys are going to be coming for him, and no matter what Roger Goddell does, they are going to try to knock him out of the game. He has all the records, he is a first ballot hall of famer who would be the highest paid talking head in football tomorrow if he would retire today. I love the guy and respect all he has done for the Colts and Indy, but his ego won't let him quit, and that is what he should do. If he has to play, my hope for him is that he does not end up taking a bad hit to the neck and end up physically compromised. If you and other fans are angry it is your perogative, but you are wasting your time. This is all part of pro sports, especially football...no team has had as much success as the Colts have had the last decade...this moment was staved off as long as possible, but it was inevitable and it has arrived.
    There is no incongruity between wishing the best for Peyton, and still rooting for the Colts, if they are really your team. You can't have everything in life (or in football). Andrew Luck, like Peyton, has been groomed for this his whole life...his father was a great college quarterback, who also played several years for the Houston Oilers. No one will ever be Peyton, but this guy is really good...much more athletic, great arm, super smart. You can't pass on him...the time is now. Peyton, assuming he can play, and can avoid the pass rush, will be just fine...He will pick the best team for him, he will make lots of money, and get more records, and we should all be happy for him if he does.
  • Not Too Ignorant to Add
    We are not so "ignorant" that we can't add the 4 years he'll continue playing but it will be against us, not for us. That will also be the three or four years it'll take Luck to even approach being as good as Manning. Sure, he's good in college - but he won't be playing college teams - he'll have grown men coming for him, waiting for each tiny mistake! He'll also have Manning against him, telling his team every nuance about his playing. When you have someone like Manning, you don't give him up for a kid who might make it in the NFL. With every new prospect, there's always a question. Add that to the fact that we've had 13 years of excellence and loyalty to our team and we have a right to be upset.
  • unfortunately
    Unfortunately Indy fans are too ignorant to understand that irsay made the right decision and Peyton will be the greatest Colt ever but it was time to move on. Time to wipe the tears out of your eyes and understand how professional sports work. This is about making the colts relevant in the future too...or they could pay manning a few more years and have a lot more 2-14 seasons.

    At least this will give Peyton a chance to chase a second ring cause there's no way he's getting that with the Colts in the next 3 years with the mess of players they have.

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