Star quarterback Peyton Manning leaves Indianapolis Colts
Manning played 14 years with the Colts helping them to the Super Bowl in 2007
Colts would have been due to pay him $28 million had he stayed
Manning missed last season through injury as Colts went 2-14
Peyton Manning parted company with the Indianapolis Colts Wednesday after a glittering 14-year career at the NFL franchise.
The 35-year-old quarterback helped the Colts to the Super Bowl title in 2007 and is a four-time NFL Most Valuable Player.
The decision frees the Colts from a $28 million bonus payment that would have been due to Manning this week had they exercised their option for the remaining four years on his contract.
Manning and Colts owner Jim Irsay appeared at an emotional press conference to confirm the news that was widely expected.
“This has not been easy for Jim and it certainly has not been easy for me,” said Manning. “Jim and I have always been close … he’s always been good to me.
“This town and this team mean so much to me. It truly has been an honor to play for Indianapolis.
“I will leave the Colts with nothing but good thoughts and gratitude to Jim, the organization, my teammates the media and, especially, the fans.”
Manning missed all of last season after four operations for a damaged vertebrae in his neck, the Colts going 2-14, the worst season in their history.
But he has been given the all-clear to return to the NFL and resume his career in 2012 and has been training at Duke University.
Irsay has decided to look to the future to rebuild his team, but is full of admiration for the departing Manning.
“It’s been very difficult and just tearing at our hearts to try to look at the situation and find the best solution,” Irsay said.
“As difficult as this day is, it’s made difficult because of the greatness and the things Peyton has done for our city, for our state, for our franchise. There will be no other Peyton Manning.”
Their last-place finish will mean the Colts get first selection in next month’s NFL draft. They are expected to take top U.S. collegiate quarterback Andrew Luck of Stanford.
Manning, who will become a much sought free agent, took the Colts to the playoffs 11 times and to two Super Bowls, winning in 2007 and losing to New Orleans at Miami in 2010.
Colts fans have voiced their opinions about Manning’s anticipated departure.
“I’m disgusted. Manning is who Indianapolis is, he’s our identity and what he’s done for the community. He’s more than a football player,” Bob Nellish told CNN affiliate WTHR-TV.
“I wouldn’t be nearly as big a fan without him,” WTHR quoted fan Aly Wiggs as saying.