INDIANAPOLIS — Maybe, just maybe, the Colts and Peyton Manning are done stealing headlines during Super Bowl Week.
They might save the real news for later.
The simmering spat between Manning and Colts owner Jim Irsay bubbled up Thursday night, when Manning’s surgeon sent out a statement saying the star quarterback had been cleared to play.
Irsay responded on Twitter in the wee hours before dawn Friday, declaring that: “Peyton has not passed our physical nor has he been cleared to play for The Indianapolis Colts” – a terse statement that suggested Manning might have yet worn out his welcome in Indianapolis.
Then for the second consecutive Friday, Irsay tried to patch things up.
“Peyton Manning, Jim Irsay and the entire Colts family remain close and unified as we continue to work through all the options that relate to his future with the Colts,” the owner said in a statement that included a color photo from Irsay’s party that was taking place at about the same time as the controversy erupted.
The photo shows Manning, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Irsay, former Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, actress Meg Ryan and singer John Mellencamp. The controversy didn’t stop Manning from visiting an inner-city school Friday. Manning did not take questions at the event.
Manning’s agent, Tom Condon, told the NFL Network that the four-time league MVP would play in 2012, a point Manning made perfectly clear when he told reporters Tuesday that he did not plan to retire despite missing the entire 2011 season after having his third neck surgery in 19 months.
But the wild swings in the league’s most-watched drama have been an overarching theme throughout Indy’s first Super Bowl Week.
And the ongoing soap opera has actually upstaged both weeks of buildup to Sunday’s game between the Giants and Patriots – a matchup that pits Manning’s brother, Eli, against Manning’s archrival, Tom Brady.
Some Colts fans aren’t ready to let Manning leave. They might not have a choice. He will turn 36 in late March and the team that just went 2-14 must decide whether to pay him a $28 million roster bonus on March 8 or let him become a free agent.
“It would be incredibly sad to see him go and I’d hate to be Irsay. I want him to stay,” said Keith Harden, a 51-year-old Indy native who was wearing a Reggie Wayne jersey.
“No, I don’t think it’s hurt his (Manning’s) image. I think he’s fighting to stay, and I like that.”