Manning ends ties with Colts

Updated: March 8, 2012

Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts are parting ways after 14 NFL seasons that included a Super Bowl title in 2007, the quarterback confirmed at an emotional press conference.

Both 35-year-old Manning and Colts owner Jim Irsay stressed how hard it was to make the decision, which will make the four-time NFL Most Valuable Player one of the most coveted free agents in the history of the league.

The move also frees the Colts from a $28million bonus payment that would have been due this week had they picked up the option for the remaining four years on Manning’s contract. “The contract and the money was never a factor,” said Manning, who missed all of last season after four operations on his neck.

But Irsay indicated that after the Colts’ league-worst 2-14 season the club needs to focus on rebuilding. “This has not been easy for Jim and it certainly has not been easy for me,” said Manning, who struggled at times to control his voice. “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 had not missed a start for the Colts until last season, but his absence played a major role in the team’s disastrous campaign. Their last-place finish gives the Colts the first selection in next month’s NFL draft, and they are expected to take top US collegiate quarterback Andrew Luck of Stanford.

Even though he is pointing his franchise toward the future, Irsay stressed his admiration and respect for Manning. “The 18 jersey will never be worn again by a Colt on the field,” said Irsay, who said he and Manning had numerous conversations trying to conceive a way for Manning to remain with the team. “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.

With Manning taking snaps, the Colts have won 150 games, eight division titles, two AFC championships and the franchise’s first Super Bowl since moving from Baltimore in 1984.