It comes as no surprise or shock to anyone. A year ago, had we heard the rumor of Peyton Manning never being the Quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts again, because of a release, we all would have laughed at the idea. Even in the age where Brett Favre, fresh off of an appearance in the NFC Championship game (albeit playing God with his retirement games) was shipped off to the New York Jets, Peyton Manning not being an Indianapolis Colt didn't seem like it would ever be a reality.
Today, March 7, 2012, Jim Irsay and Peyton Manning held a press conference to officially announce that the team would not be paying Peyton Manning's bonus, meaning they'd officially be cutting ties with arguably the greatest player in the league.
Peyton Manning has undergone 3, maybe 4, neck procedures in the past 19 months. Speculation of him retiring crept up regularly until recent reports from doctors familiar with Manning's situation reported that he was recovering and cleared for contact in football. Manning was waiting on strength in his arm and neck to return, depending on the fat around his nerves to regenerate. A recent video claims to have caught Manning throwing the long ball and having some velocity on his throws, made things very interesting last week.
Manning's release makes him possibly the most coveted free agent of all time, especially if he's healthy.
In an emotional address at the press conference, Manning choked back, and let flow, tears as he addressed Colts fans, thanking them and telling them he loved nothing more during his career than playing for the fans. The announcement we've all expected for months now, not surprising or shocking, is still unbelievable. It's surreal now that it is real. A bad dream to anyone who has watched football during Peyton's career. Peyton Manning will always be the franchise quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts. Even if he goes on to win 2 or 3 more consecutive Super Bowls for another franchise, or decides he just wants to hang up the cleats tomorrow, that fact will never change. Peyton Manning is Indianapolis, and the Colts are Peyton Manning.
Once the dust settles this week and teams make their move and someone lands Peyton Manning, it will only become more surreal. But when Manning takes that first hit, completes that first pass, lights up the scoreboard, and wins a game, we'll settle in knowing that Manning, like Favre, isn't known by his organization, but that he simply is Peyton Manning, and that won't ever change.