Posted on: March 7, 2012 2:23 pm
 

Baalke: 49ers aren't going after Manning

By Josh Katzowitz

While teams apparently are jumping into what should be an expensive sweepstakes to win the affections of Peyton Manning -- the Dolphins, the Redskins, the Jets, the Cardinals, etc. -- at least one potential landing place won’t be accepting Manning’s job application.

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That is the 49ers, who apparently are content to re-sign Alex Smith rather than test the waters with Manning. That’s what San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke told KNBR radio (via the Sacramento Bee), saying, “We haven't had Peyton in here nor are we even talking about those things internally right now. ... Is he going to play? I don't know. That's for the doctors to make the decision on and for him himself."

Meanwhile, San Francisco is still trying to sign Smith, an unrestricted free agent who seemingly has coach Jim Harbaugh in his corner.

"We're working very hard on it like we are with all our free agents. I said this all along and I hate to be a broken record, but Alex is an important part of it,” Baalke said. “Carlos (Rogers) is an important part of it. All of these guys that were here last year, that are out there, that are free agents, we're trying our best to put the best package that we can together to keep as many of them as we can."

Maybe, though, the 49ers should take a look at Manning. As CBSSports.com’s Will Brinson recently pointed out, “If any team is ‘one guy away,’ it's the 49ers. And that's why you can't count them out.” Because who would you rather have: Smith or Manning (even if it’s a Manning that’s not 100 percent healthy)?

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Posted on: March 7, 2012 1:57 pm
 

Dolphins odds-on favorite to get Manning

By Josh Katzowitz

In case you’re a gambling man or woman (and I know you are), here are the latest odds of where Peyton Manning will end up next.

If you want expert picks, here’s what we at CBSSports.com think. Otherwise, study what Sportsbook.com -- which is making the Dolphins the odds-on favorite to win Manning's services -- has to offer.

Cardinals + 350

Broncos +2000

Field (Any Other Team) +300

Texans +1000

Chiefs +550

Dolphins +250

Jets +600

No Team (Doesn’t throw a pass in 2012/2013 Regular Season) +1500

49ers +1500

Seahawks +800

Titans +2500

Redskins +600

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Posted on: March 7, 2012 1:20 pm
 

Peyton Manning 'confident' he'll play in 2012

Manning is "confident" he'll be back in 2012. (AP)
By Will Brinson

Peyton Manning is done as a member of the Colts. That was made officially official on Wednesday. But don't think he's done in the NFL; not even close.

Asked Wednesday after a class-filled speech about his playing status for 2012, Manning said he was "confident" he'd be on the field.

"I am confident," Manning said. "I don't know what these next steps are -- this is all kind of new to me."

It's new to everyone; Manning's been in a Colts uniform ever since he entered the league in 1998. And despite rumors (mainly from Rob Lowe) to the contrary, Manning isn't considering retirement.

"I don't want to retire," Manning said. "And no I don't feel like I have anything to prove. Nobody loves their job more than I do. Nobody loves playing quarterback more than I do. I still want to play. There's no other team I've ever wanted to play for."

But Manning has to find a new team now, and that new team is going to wonder about his health. According to Manning, he's "come a long way" but still has "some progress to make."

"I'm throwing it pretty well. I've still got some work to do. I've got some progress to make," Manning said. "But I've come a long way. I've really worked hard. I can't tell you the hours I've put in to working hard."

Not many people can -- the only shots of Peyton playing are some Zapruder-like film shot at Duke University. But that shouldn't stop teams from seeing just how ready Manning is to play.

I've broken down the spots where I think Manning could end up, and there are plenty of rumors as to just how interested those various teams are. Don't expect those rumors to slow down much, especially if Manning can prove in the coming days and weeks why he's so confident.

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Posted on: March 7, 2012 12:44 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 1:44 pm
 

Manning presser filled with memories, emotions

Manning and Irsay officially said goodbye Wednesday. (US Presswire)
By Josh Katzowitz

Say what you will about the dance Colts owner Jim Irsay and his superstar quarterback have performed the past few months as he and Peyton Manning have played politics, trying to gain leverage on each other. Leaked videos of Manning practicing in North Carolina, and leaked reports that Manning might need another spinal fusion surgery.

At times, it’s gotten ugly, but divorces usually are.

In the end, though, Irsay and Manning are like family, and no matter their squabbles, Irsay loves Manning. And Manning loves Irsay and the franchise.

The one moment that crystalized Manning’s affection occurred midway through Wednesday’s press conference when, after already showcasing his emotion a number of times, Manning nearly broke down when he was talking about the Colts equipment men. The equipment men for, god’s sake!

That’s what the franchise has meant to him. When you shed a tear for the men who clothe you, you know how Manning feels about the entire organization.

“I sure have loved playing football for the Indianapolis Colts,” said Manning, who was officially released by Indianapolis on Wednesday. “For 14 wonderful years, the only professional football I’ve known has been Colts football. I played with so many great teammates. This is an organization who I respect and will continue to respect them. I guess in life and in sports, nothing lasts forever. Times change. Circumstances change. That’s the reality of playing in the NFL.”

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Multiple times, Irsay and Manning said this breakup was not about money -- though clearly that’s hard to believe (remember that $28 million bonus Manning was due at the end of this week?) -- but it was about the circumstances surrounding the organization. The Colts are going to have to rebuild after their 2-14 debacle last year. Manning, at the age of 36, wants to win now. There was no way to keep this relationship alive. Everybody wants -- and needs -- different things.

“We’re definitely a few years away,” Irsay said. “We want to see him come back and play great. … I want that opportunity for him to succeed at the end of his career … Hopefully we’ll watch Peyton win immediately.”

Where that is, Manning doesn’t know. At least that’s what he said Wednesday.

“I haven’t thought about where I’ll play,” Manning said. “But I’ve thought about where I’ve been. I’ve truly been blessed.”
And as far as retirement? Not a chance, Manning said. He said he’s making progress from his neck surgeries and getting closer to returning to his old form.

“I have some progress to make,” Manning said. “But I’ve come a long way. I’ve really worked hard. I can’t tell you the hours I’ve put in. I’ve really enjoyed being back out there.

“No, I don’t feel like I have anything to prove. There’s no other team I wanted to play for. Nobody has had it better than I’ve had playing for the Colts these past 14 years. But I love playing quarterback.”

He just won’t get to do it in the city and the state that he’s grown to love the past 14 years. Which made him and Irsay -- who embraced after they were finished taking questions -- emotional.

“When I look down the road and see the many decades we’ll share together, he’s always part of the horseshoe,” Irsay said. “I can’t thank him enough.”

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Posted on: March 7, 2012 12:42 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 1:42 pm
 

Irsay, Manning press conference was all class

Manning and Irsay closed out an era in Indy the right way. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

"I sure have loved playing football for the Indianapolis Colts," Peyton Manning said to open up his final press conference with the Indianapolis Colts.

It was classic Peyton, said in his typical Southern, aw-shucks and sincere-sounding accent.

If you want to pick one word to describe the joint press conference between Jim Irsay and Manning, announcing Peyton's departure from Indianapolis, "emotional" would work. But so would "class" -- Manning and Irsay did things the right way and closed a wonderful career in an amicable fashion. (LeBron James, please take notes.)

Today's snark-filled reactionary world makes it tough to pull off a genuine public event that doesn't come off as forced. And considering the NFL world's been narrowly focused on Manning for several months now, a press conference with both divorcees present had all the makings for a trainwreck.

Instead, Irsay and Manning both deserve an A-plus for the way they handled the adversity. Irsay spoke off the cuff, and Manning had some prepared words. But they both were quick and to the point, while remaining sincere. It was a welcome change in a world where Jim Gray and Vitamin Water have made press conference cringe-worthy.


Peyton doesn't want to play anywhere else. We all know that. But he wants to play. He's even "confident" he'll play next year. And he could have talked about where, but he didn't.

"I haven't thought a lot about where I'll play," Manning said. "But I have thought a lot about where I've been."

Irsay doesn't want Peyton playing anywhere else either. He knows Peyton will though and was honest enough to wish him luck. He already made the (easy) decision to retire Manning's number too.

"The 18 jersey will never be worn again by a Colt on the field," Irsay said.

Manning, fittingly, got the last word before a few brief questions from the press.

"Thank you very much, from the bottom of my heart," Peyton Manning, fighting back tears, addressed Colts fans to close out his presser.

"I truly enjoyed being your quarterback."

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Posted on: March 7, 2012 11:25 am
 

Report: Freddie Mitchell indicted for tax fraud

Mitchell has been indicted on tax fraud charges. (US Presswire)
By Josh Katzowitz

For as much as he liked to talk -- and talk trash -- former Eagles receiver Freddie Mitchell had a pedestrian* four-year career. He accumulated 90 catches and 1,263 yards and five touchdowns. Which would have been good for one season. But not so impressive when it’s spread out over four seasons.

Since then, we’ve seen him pop up on a reality TV show (unfortunately, he didn’t find love on “Millionaire Matchmaker”) and on police rap sheets (he’s been the subject of a drug charge and has been in trouble for an apparent lack of child support payments).

Now, Mitchell has got trouble with the IRS, as My Fox Philly reports that Mitchell has been indicted on federal tax fraud charges in Orlando. Mitchell allegedly recruited a pro athlete for a scheme to obtain false tax returns for two other co-conspirators who apparently claimed tax refunds ranging from $170,000 to $1.9 million.

Allegedly, Mitchell recruited a pro athlete with the initials A.G., who paid a firm connected with Mitchell to do his taxes. That athlete, who had no knowledge of the scheme, paid Mitchell $100,000 for tax preparations with the thought he would receive a $1.2 million tax refund.

Instead, Mitchell’s alleged co-conspirators filed false tax returns without A.G. knowing about it.

*He was so unimpressive that Bill Belichick once said he was happy to face off against the Eagles when Mitchell was in the game because he was so bad.

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Posted on: March 7, 2012 9:42 am
 

I'll always be grateful to Peyton Manning

Ever during his tough rookie season, Manning will be remembered as a gentleman. (US Presswire)
By Josh Katzowitz

With the news that the Colts most likely will release quarterback Peyton Manning, an Indianapolis era is over. Manning was the one who led the moribund franchise into a perennial Super Bowl contender. He's the one that led the Colts to the world title. He's the one who helped convince the NFL to place Super Bowl XLVI in Lucas Oil Stadium. Hell, Manning is one of the main reasons Lucas Oil Stadium was erected in the first place.

So, it'll be a sad day when the Colts say goodbye to one of the top players in NFL history.

And it's a sad day for the reporters who covered him, as Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz put it on Twitter. "It was a joy and a privilege to watch and cover Peyton Manning. Always a class act, went out of his way to accommodate us. ... One example: After nite games, PM would talk to us right away, usually in full pads, knowing we were on deadline and in a rush. Appreciated."

I know what Kravitz means, because it was Manning 14 years ago who saved me from what could have been one of the most embarrassing moments of my young career. It was Dec. 6, 1998, and I had driven to Atlanta from Athens, Ga., to cover the Falcons-Colts game so I could write a feature on former University of Georgia offensive lineman Adam Meadows for the Red & Black, the student newspaper.

The Colts were terrible that year, finishing 3-13 in Manning's rookie season in which he led the league with 28 interceptions. On that day, though, the Colts were just as good as Atlanta, which went 14-2 that season and wound up losing to the Broncos in the Super Bowl. Manning went 19 of 27 for two touchdowns and two interceptions, and Colts running back Marshall Faulk rushed for another score as Indianapolis took a 21-7 lead in the second quarter. The Georgia Dome was stunned. The terrible Colts were en route to upsetting perhaps the best Falcons team of all time.

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But Atlanta scored and then scored again to tie the game. Then, one more time in the third quarter to take a 28-21 lead that Manning couldn't erase. The Colts fell to 2-11 that day, and the mood in the Indianapolis locker room was sour. Meadows was pleasant, but Faulk barked a non-answer at me that probably should have given me pause before I approached Manning in the corner of the locker room as he dressed after his shower.

I didn't know how locker room protocol worked, and I'm sure, by that point, Manning had already conducted his postgame press conference. But I didn't know any better. Instead, I saw a chance to get Manning one-on-one. I approached and greeted him. He looked at the floor, but he it was clear he would answer my queries after I told him I was from the UGA student paper.

I asked him a couple questions, and he answered without much enthusiasm. Then, I asked him the worst question I've ever muttered in my life. I won't mention it, because it was so god-awful brutal. But suffice to say, Manning could have -- and probably should have -- told me to get the hell out of the locker room. The question was that bad. But he didn't. He looked at me, probably sighed, and answered the question. Like it was legit. Like he wasn't standing there in his boxers wanting to disappear from the locker room. Like I hadn't just asked an idiotic question.

But he answered, and I used his quote as my kicker to that story (I apparently thought my question was that top-notch).

I'll never forget him for that. He could have blown me off and embarrassed me like Faulk. He could have excused himself and left the scene. He could have put on his pants and ignored me. He could have laughed in my face. But he didn't. He treated me like a reporter. He treated my question like it was a professional had asked it. He treated me like an adult. For that, I'll always be thankful.

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Posted on: March 7, 2012 8:16 am
Edited on: March 7, 2012 8:22 am
 

Manning simply too expensive for Colts to keep

In the end, Irsay would have had to pay Manning $35.5 million without knowing for sure Manning is healthy. (Getty Images)
By Pat Kirwan

In the end it wasn't salary cap space but real cash that ends the Peyton Manning era in Indianapolis.

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The $28 million bonus due the last second of the last day of the 2011 league year and the $7.5 million salary in 2012 is a $35.5 million hit without proof positive that Manning can play again. The 2011 portion of the new contract that had a $20 million signing bonus as well as a $3 million roster bonus and $3.4 million salary without a physical was his "legacy" money for a HOF career.

It didn't hurt that the Colts wind up in the spot to draft Andrew Luck and make the transition from Manning a little easier to tolerate.

The Dolphins are still looking for the Dan Marino replacement. The way the Colts structured the contract really indicates that the line in the sand was drawn for March 2012 as to how much more risk the Colts would take. Without playing a down in 2011 and not really ever being able to practice, it is over. I believe Manning will play again and now he hits free agency.

No modern day quarterback in the Hall of Fame that left his original team and joined another club ever took that new team to a Super Bowl. Joe Montana got close with the Chiefs but lost in the conference championship game. Could Peyton be the first to do it? I wouldn't bet against him.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com