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INTO THE GREAT UNKNOWN
JIM TROTTER
March 19, 2012
Reinvigorated Super Bowl--ready quarterback, or injury case in inexorable decline? Peyton Manning in 2012 will be the most intriguing NFL story in years
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March 19, 2012

Into The Great Unknown

Reinvigorated Super Bowl--ready quarterback, or injury case in inexorable decline? Peyton Manning in 2012 will be the most intriguing NFL story in years

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There's also the issue of emotional scars. Manning (who did not speak to the media over the weekend) was reported to be hurt by his release and to have believed up to the last few days that he could be returning to Indianapolis. Suggestions were there. Owner Jim Irsay told The Indianapolis Star after the Super Bowl, "We would love to have him back here if he can get healthy, and we can look at doing a contract that reflects the uncertainty of the ... healing process." But when Irsay and Manning met last week, sources say the decision was out of Manning's hands. The Colts were moving on. In fact, Andrew Luck's personal quarterbacks coach, George Whitfield, had already been in contact with Indianapolis offensive coordinator Bruce Arians to discuss what the team wanted the Stanford product, and presumed No. 1 pick, to work on.

A dozen teams contacted Manning's representatives after he was released. A general manager for one of them said the quarterback phoned and thanked each of the clubs for their interest, but the G.M. believed Manning already had whittled his list to a handful of teams. Even that didn't stop officials around the league from envisioning the alltime great wearing their colors. The owner of one 2011 playoff team told SI that while his club was not pursuing Manning, it would seriously consider signing him (pending a positive medical report) if he phoned and said he wanted to play for them.

Wherever Manning goes over the next weeks and months, satellite trucks, giddy fans and great expectations are sure to follow. As for a Lombardi Trophy, that's much further from a sure thing.

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