|Manning 'determined' to play in 2012. (Getty Images)|
By Ryan Wilson
It's been more than a year since Peyton Manning played in an NFL game, but just five weeks out from a $28 million roster bonus coming due, the Colts have to make a decision on his future in Indianapolis. Teams are already lining up for his services (allegedly, of course) -- both those with obvious quarterback needs and others who may be willing to reconsider their current quarterback situation.
The problem: no one knows how healthy Manning is. He missed the 2011 season after undergoing three neck surgeries in two years, and Sports Illustrated's Peter King reported Sunday that Manning is struggling to get healthy before March 8, the day he's to receive the aforementioned roster bonus.
King adds: "No one knows yet if he'll play at all. In the last few days ... I've heard mixed reports about his physical condition. There is no guarantee he'll be healthy enough for any team to build its offense around."
King also seconded something we wrote on the Eye on Football blog: Colts owner Jim Irsay didn't make a decision on Manning's future "weeks ago."
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"I talked to Colts owner Irsay over the weekend, and he insisted, contrary to an NFL.com report that he decided 'weeks ago' to part ways with Manning, that he hasn't done any such thing," King wrote Monday.
"There has been no decision,'' Irsay told King. "This thing is still up in the air. I guarantee you I have not made the decision."
On Monday, Peyton's non-football-playing brother, Cooper, told NFL Network's Albert Breer that Manning was "determined" to play in 2012.
"What I do know is Peyton is going to do every single thing a human being can possibly do to get ready to play again," Cooper said from New Orleans according to Breer. "Where, when and how he'll play, that's all up in the air. But as far as his body goes, Peyton's smart, he'll know what to do. Anyone predicting what will happen now going forward is just wasting their breath. But he is working as hard as anyone can work to get out there again."
Without knowing the state of Manning's recovery but with Irsay having already begun the housecleaning process, it's fair to assume that Manning may have played his last game for the Colts. He won't be out of work long, though; in fact, we wouldn't be surprised if some truly desperate team took a flier on him even if he's not yet cleared to return to the field. After all, the NFL is a passing league woefully short on passers.
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