INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 18: Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts smiles in the bench area during Colts 27-13 win over the Tennessee Titans in the NFL game at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 18, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
The media chess game continues... Sort of.
In an appearance with NFL Network, Peyton Manning's longtime agent Tom Condon made it clear that "Peyton's not done", along with some other goodies. It was generally the same old stuff that we've heard over the past few days, but Condon did help to clarify the report of Manning's clearance.
But Condon was adamant that anyone who thinks Manning would be foolishly risking his future health if he returns to the field is wrong. Condon said doctors including "the best back and neck guy in the country" have examined Manning and "made a determination that he’s structurally sound."
So, Irsay's insistence that Manning wasn't "cleared by the Indianapolis Colts" is rather irrelevant. We know Peyton is in good hands and if he says his neck is good to go, I have faith that it didn't originate from the expert opinion of some "doctor" in Portugal that practices out of a darkened cellar.
For those of you that didn't know, the bonus option due to Manning on March 8th can actually be circumvented, but only if both sides agree to restructure the deal.
Condon acknowledged it would be possible for the two sides to re-negotiate the contract and move back the date that the Colts have to pay the bonus, but he didn’t sound interested in doing that.
If Condon and Manning don't become interested in altering the deadline, then the Colts hands will likely be forced to release P-Money. I'm not even going to get into how I feel about this decision (just know that I'm a Manning guy). But with the back and forth that we've seen between both parties, I think it's clear that #18 will not be a Colt next year.
Sad. Very sad.
This situation has been handled poorly from the very onset and Irsay is responsible for a lot of that. (Can't make up his mind, calls Manning's perspective of things "incorrect", refutes a report that is accurate, but ultimately irrelevant etc...) The release of the "clearance" report was silly and clearly a P.R. tactic from the Manning camp, but I doubt that it really needed a Twitter response. (Irsay apparently changed his mind on that "official statement".) I'm extremely happy that Manning's neck is ready and it's certainly great to know that it won't be a factor in his future recovery, whether that entails playing with his twins or getting sacked by Terrell Suggs. But unless he plans on busting out his secret southpaw talents, he's going to need more time [emphasis mine]:
Condon said that Manning’s medical clearance means it would be safe for him to play, and that he wouldn’t be risking greater injury to his neck. Condon added, however, that Manning’s nerve regeneration hasn’t reached the point where he would be able to step on the field and play in an NFL game today.
Will this happen? I believe it will. (I also asked Mother Nature. She said, and I quote, "He's golden.") Manning is obviously confident about his progression and the events that we've seen take place over the last week show a hard push from the Manning camp that he will be ready come 2012. March may only be a month away, but Manning has plenty of time to get a favorable amount of his strength back.
But unlike Manning, the Colts don't have plenty of time to make a decision, unless we see a delay. And between all of the teams that will be pining for Manning's services and the sniping going on in Indy, I think we can all see the writing on the wall.
Can Irsay really take a leap of faith on a 36-year-old, still healing Manning? There's obvious profit and there's obvious risk.
Try to get some sleep, Mr. Irsay.