[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]
Thank you, Jim.
I sure have loved playing football for the Indianapolis Colts.
For fourteen wonderful years, the only professional football I've known has been Colts football. Our team won a lot of games here. I played with so many great teammates here, and I've been part of a great organization here, an organization and a[n] owner who I respect and continue to respect.
I've been a Colt for almost all of my adult life, but I guess in life and in sports, we all know that nothing lasts forever. Times change; circumstances change; and that's the reality of playing in the NFL. Jim [Irsay] and I have spoken extensively about where we are today. And our conversations have led both of us to recognize that our circumstances make it best for us to take this next step.
This has not been easy for Jim and it certainly has not been easy for me. Jim, along with Bill Polian, drafted me fourteen years ago. Jim and I have always been close and we made a lot of great memories together. He's always been good to me, and Jim, I will be forever grateful.
This town and this team mean so much to me. It truly has been a[n] honor to play in Indianapolis. I do love it here. I love the fans and I will always enjoy having played for such a great team. I will leave the Colts with nothing but good thoughts and gratitude to Jim, the organization, my teammates, the media, and especially the fans.
I haven't thought yet about where I'll play, but I have thought a -- a lot about where I've been. And I've truly been blessed. I've been blessed to play here. I've been blessed to be in the NFL.
And as I go, I go with just a few words left to say, a few words I want to address to Colts fans everywhere:
Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart. I truly have enjoyed being your quarterback.
Press Conference Q & A with Peyton Manning and Jim Irsay
[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio and edited for continuity]
Q: ...Peyton, when did you come to the decision? When did you two talk? When did it finally become...the point where it has to be [inaudible]?
Manning: Jim and I have been talking for a long time. We've really had some great conversations. We've enjoyed kind of going down memory lane together about some of the great moments we've had here during our time together for 14 years. That's really what this has been about for me, this time, is that reflection of so many great memories and how grateful I am to Jim and the team and just how awesome it's been for this time. So, we've covered all sorts of scenarios and, like he said, these circumstances are not they way either of us wished they were but -- but that's the reality. And that's kind of how it got to this point. So, I don't necessarily think there was a decisive point. It was just good, healthy talks, fun talks in person and over the phone, long talks. And that's kind of how we got here.
Q: ...Peyton, how confident are you that you will play this fall and be able to continue your career?
Manning: Yeah, I am confident. I don't know what these next steps are. This is all kind of new to me. This is the only team I've never known. And I've always known what the month of March is for an offseason, getting ready to go play for the Colts the next season. So this is kind of uncharted territory for me. So we'll see how all that plays out.
Q: ...Did this come down to, for either one of you, if you had to nail it down to one thing: an inability to financially meet where you need to be, or, an inability to agree on the health status and the availability for Peyton?
Manning: The contract and the money was never a factor in this for either of us. And --
Jim Irsay: Well I think it also came down to the plane running out of gas last night, too...because we had to land. I...think that...we knew that there was a date there. And at the same time, all the scenarios we talked through, like I said, Peyton unselfishly had the interest of the franchise. And I tried to advise him in terms of what's in his best interest as well. And...like Peyton said, these circumstances are something that neither one of us could imagine a couple years ago, even a year ago, so --
Q: ...What advice was that, Jim, that you told you him that you thought was in Peyton's best interest?
Jim Irsay: I just think that as a franchise, where we are right now, with the salary cap, we're rebuilding. We're...definitely a few years away. I...want to see him come back and...play great. I mean, there's no question about it. It's just here, just like in 2001 when he was completely healthy and...everything else and we didn't have everything to surround him. I want that opportunity for him as well to succeed at the end of his career.
Q: ...Peyton, you're so involved in the community here and you've got a home here. Will you maintain a residence here? Have you talked that far? You've got the Children's Hospital. Will you still stay around...?
Manning: Yeah...I'm...not leaving Indianapolis. I'm just not going to be with the Colts, so this...city's been so great to me and it's still a big part of my life. So...it's...not a separation...[but] kind of a departure from the Colts; but certainly not from the great city of Indianapolis.
Q: ...As difficult as this is, are you at peace with this?
Manning: I'm sorry?
Q: As difficult as this is, are you at peace with this?
Manning: Well, we've certainly been kind of prepared for the possible scenario...for some time. Nobody -- like Jim and I said -- wishes that these circumstances had arrived -- with my injury, with the team['s] record last year. But...I am at peace. It's been very difficult for both Jim and I. I don't think anybody quite understands the emotions that he and I have felt. He and I have been able to share those together. It's been nice to have someone to bounce those emotions off of. It's really kind of in a similar boat. So, it's been very difficult. We try to keep it in perspective. I think all of us need to remembe our thoughts and prayers need to be with these tornado victims in Indiana and the Tennessee area. So you very much have to keep it in perspective. But it's certainly been emotional. And it's weighed real heavy on my heart...but...yeah, I am at peace with it.
Q: ...Peyton, what the process and timeline be now as far as moving forward in your career somewhere else?
Manning: Yeah, I...really don't know. I probably need to ask someone kind of what these next steps are. But, the next thing, the immediate thing that I plan to do next is to say thank you; to thank so many people that have had such a bit impact on my time here with the Colts. Certainly Jim and I have had many personal conversations. And I...think he certainly understands how grateful I am to him and the entire organization -- what they've done for me. But I've...got a chance to visit right after this with some employees here, that that have been here for a number of years. A lot of them have been here since 1984...since 1998 when we went 3-13, were kind of there from the beginning for my career. So a chance for me to say thank you to them. That's really what this time is about because I certainly am grateful.
Q: ...Going back to '98 when you came out and everything was kind of new, can you kind of relate what the new quarterback's going to go through; and how close will you follow -- once you land -- how close will you follow this rebuilding process?
Manning: Well...I'll always be a Colt. I always will be. That will never change. And...Jim has certainly made me feel welcome...to...come by here anytime; and I will always keep up. It's hard to make comparisons on years. I remember what 1998 was for me and I know how much it helped me that year with the supporting cast that Jim and Bill put in place and what we built from there. So it has been fun. I know you guys ask me a lot: Have I had a lot of time to reflect? I have had time to reflect on that year and the other years we've had since; and they've been great memories. And the relationships with the coaches and the teammates and the support staff here -- Hey, I...have nothing but appreciation.
Q: ...describe how you're throwing the football right now.
Manning: I'm throwing it pretty well. I've still got some work to do. I've got some progress to make, but I've come a long way. And I've really worked hard. I...can't tell you the hours and time I've put in to working hard. I really enjoy being back out there. I've had a chance to throw with some of my old teammates, guys like Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Austin [Collie], [Brandon] Stokley. [Jeff] Saturday's snapped to me a couple of times. That's been the most fun part, being back out there on the field. You're in the training room all fall. You're kind of...off limits to the field, so to kind of be cleared and get back out there and throw, I sure have enjoyed that. And I'm doing better. I'll...continue to work hard and hopefully keeping making some progress.
Q: ...When you go out and throw the ball, do you feel like yourself out there, right now?
Manning: I'm feeling closer and closer. I have to remind myself that it is March. I have a hard time doing that at times, but it sure feels comfortable. It feels kind of like home being back out there after not being able to go out on the field for September, October, November. That was personally difficult. So it's nice to kind of have that freedom and I'm working hard. Like I said, I still have some work to do, but I am looking forward to doing that work and hopefully keep...making progress.
Q: ...favorite Peyton Manning memory? What is your...favorite memory? What will stay with you forever?
Manning: Oh, that's a hard question. I...have so many. I really do. This is a relationship business with coaches, teammates, support staff. [The] Colts have the...greatest equipment guys in the world and...I think about those type of relationships; and...not necessarily always on the field and touchdown throw to win the game. It's... behind the scenes, the laughs, the stories, the time spent together, those are the memories. And those aren't going away. Those will be with me for the rest of my life. So there are so many. I certainly can't pick one. I just know I've been very fortunate, very blessed, and I'm truly appreciative and thankful.
Q: ...In '98 the story's pretty legendary about you essentially telling Jim why he should draft you and what would happen if he didn't draft you, that you would beat him for a number of years. At any point in the last few months during these conversations, did you feel the need or did you lobby your case as to why you should stay and be the quarterback?
Manning: Jim and I never got into...that situation. We...had good, healthy talks about where everything was, about what the circumstances were. And..."circumstances" was the third guy in the talks with us all the time. It wasn't...[Jim's] decision. It wasn't my decision. The circumstances kind of dictated that. So, like I said, it's not what either of us wanted but it's just kind of the way it worked out to be. And...I've really enjoyed these talks with him. We really have had some laughs and some great memories. And...Jim and I will have a strong relationship, forever.
Q: ...Colts fans want to know why didn't you retire a Colt. Did you consider that? You're not...you still feel like you have something to prove?
Manning: Well, I don't want to retire. And no I don't feel like I have anything to prove. But nobody loves their job more than I do. Nobody loves playing quarterback more than I do. I...still want to play. But there's no other team I've ever wanted to play for. Nobody's had it better than I have playing for the Indianapolis Colts for these 14 years. I...can't say how thankful and how...fortunate I feel to have played here. But, yeah, I still...love playing quarterback.
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