"It's a divorce from the Colts, but certainly not from the great city of Indianapolis," Manning said today during an emotional joint news conference with owner Jim Irsay today at Lucas Oil Stadium. "I don't want to retire. 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 ever wanted to play for."
The Colts are cutting Manning rather than pick up a $28 million option bonus.
"As a franchise, where we are with the salary cap, where we are rebuilding, we're definitely a few years away. I want to see him come back and play great," Irsay said. "I want the opportunity for him to succeed at the end of his career. Hopefully, we'll watch Peyton win immediately and we'll continue to slowly build and find our stride. The hope and plan was that it would be a slow continuity and there wouldn't be such jagged edges to rebuilding being upon you, but it forced itself upon us."
Manning gave the following update on his rehabilitation from four neck surgeries.
"I'm throwing it pretty well," Manning said. "I've still got some work to do, some progress to make. But I've come a long way. I've really worked hard. I can't tell you the hours and the time I've put in. I really enjoy being back out there. I've got a chance to throw with some of my old teammates: Reggie Wayne. Dallas Clark. Austin [Collie]. [Jeff] Saturday's snapping to me. That's been the fun part, being back out there. I'm doing better. I'm going to continue to work hard."
During the press conference, Irsay acknowledged it was an extremely difficult time for him.
"Today is a very difficult day for every Colts fan," Irsay said. "Peyton Manning has meant so much to the organization, the city of Indianapolis, the state of Indiana and to Colts fans worldwide. We salute Peyton for all he has accomplished on and off the field, and we wish him health and happiness as he moves forward.
"As difficult this day is, it's made difficult because of the greatness and the things Peyton has done for our city, our state, our franchise. There will be no other Peyton Manning. In a special place in a special time over the last decade and a half we've been so blessed to have him."
By not picking up the $28 million option, Manning becomes an unrestricted free agent.
"The contract and the money was never a factor for either of us," Manning said even though obviously the contract was a huge factor.
As the Colts move on and likely draft Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the top overall pick, Manning heads to a rich free agent market.
He's expected to be targeted by several teams, including the Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins, New York Jets, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers and the Cleveland Browns.
' A four-time Most Valuable Player, Manning celebrates his 36th birthday later this month.
"I haven't thought yet about where I'll play, but I have thought about where I've been," Manning said. "I've truly been blessed to play here, and blessed to be in the NFL."
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