The Indianapolis Colts announced earlier today the release of Peyton Manning. The team held a noon press conference with Manning and Colts owner Jim Irsay, with both displaying their emotions as they spoke.
With his release, Manning is now free to sign with any NFL team, without waiting until the March 13 free agency period's start.
Below is the transcript from the press conference. You can watch the entire Peyton Manning press conference on the Colts' website.
Colts Owner Jim Irsay: "Good afternoon. Well, we're here to announce the conclusion of Peyton's playing career with the Colts. We're here very much as well to honor all the incredible memories and incredible things that he's done for the franchise, for the city, for the state. In the history of sports through the last century, there's been in team sports a handful of Hall of Fame great players that have done incredible things for franchises. I know that this parallels the handful of people through time that has meant so much to the franchise. I know, in my heart and in the hearts of fans, it's unparalleled for the Colts. It's a difficult day here of shared pain between Peyton, myself, the fans, everyone. I think in that vein as well, the 18 jersey will never be worn again by a Colt on the field.
"This process has been a long and difficult process. I know Peyton and I have had numerous conversations over the months. We always kept trying to come back to the circumstances that were before us. We tried to put each other in each other's shoes and try to realize what the situation was for the franchise, what it was for Peyton. In the end, those circumstances were too difficult to overcome, circumstances that dictated to us, to the franchise, that really were unavoidable. It's something where as we're going forward, being a rebuilding team with salary cap problems and Peyton is on the mend to try to resume his career, we both wanted to be together.
"It's been very difficult, just tearing at our hearts to try to look at the situation and find the best solution. I think Peyton has been completely unselfish in terms of looking at what the franchise, where it was at and where we're at this point, and I tried to put myself in Peyton's situation as well. In the end, before we ever got into any specifics, it's never been about money and never been about those type of things, It's really to be blessed here today to have gone through the experiences we have together, as an owner and having Peyton as a friend and a player, all the things we've been through, it's an incredible blessing.
"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. I mean, that's something that's in a special place in a special time. Over the last decade and a half, we've been so blessed to have him. The good times we've had together, the laughs we've shared together, you know growing up together in the organization, when a 37-year-old owner meets a 22-year-old player coming out of Tennessee, and the dreams that we had, and the experience is just beyond my imagination. As difficult as this is, I know our journey together hasn't ended, it's really just begun. I look down the road and see the many decades, going forward, that we'll share together and how he's always part of the Horseshoe. It's something where I can't thank him enough. When I look back and reflect on everything that's happened ... whenever we went on the road, the circus was coming into town. Peyton was the ring leader. The memories that we have and the great people we've been blessed to be around, I'll always treasure.
"Just want to turn it over to Peyton now to say a few more words."
Peyton Manning: "Thank you, Jim.
"I sure have loved playing football for the Indianapolis Colts. For 14 wonderful years, the only professional football I've known is Colts football. Our team won a lot of games here, I've played with so many great teammates here and I've been part of a great organization here, an organization and an owner who I respect and continue to respect.
"I've been a Colt for almost all 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 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 to take the 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 14 years ago. Jim and I have always been close. We made a lot of great memories together. He's always been good to me. And Jim, I will forever be grateful.
"This town and this team mean so much to me. It truly has been an 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 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. Thank you."
JI: "If there's any questions, we'll take a few now."
PM: (On when the two came to the decision)"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. We've covered all sorts of scenarios and, like he said, these circumstances, they're not the way either of us wished they were but that's the reality. That's kind of how it got to this point. 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. That's kind of how we got here."
( On how confident he is that he will play again)"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 it plays out."
(On if this came down to one issue (money, health)) "The contract and the money was never a factor in this for either of us."
JI: "It also came down to the plane running out of gas last night, too, because we had to land. We knew there was a date there. At the same time, all the scenarios we talked through ... Peyton unselfishly had the interest of the franchise. I tried to advise him in terms of what's in his best interest as well. Like Peyton said, these circumstances are something that neither one of us could imagine a couple years ago, even a year ago."
(On if he has any advice for Peyton) "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. There's no question about it. It's just here, 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."
PM: (On if he will remain involved in the community and with Children's Hospital) "I'm not leaving Indianapolis. I just won't be with the Colts. This city's been so great to me and it's still a big part of my life. It's a departure from the Colts, but certainly not from the great city of Indianapolis."
(On the difficulty of this process) "We've certainly been kind of prepared for the possible scenario for some time. Nobody wishes these circumstances had arrived with my injury, with the team's record last year. 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 been in a similar boat. It's been very difficult. We try to keep it in perspective. I think all of us need to remember, our thoughts and prayers need to be with these tornado victims in Indiana and the Tennessee area. You very much have to keep it in perspective. But it's certainly been emotional. It's weighed very heavy on my heart, but I am at peace with it."
(On if he has a timeline) "I really don't know. I probably need to ask someone what these next steps are. The immediate thing I plan to do next is to say thank you. To thank so many people that have had such an impact on my time here with the Colts. Certainly Jim and I have had many personal conversations. I think he certainly understands how grateful I am to him and the entire organization; what they've done for me. I've got a chance to visit right after this with some employees that have been here for a number of years. A lot of them have been here since 1984, back to 1998 when we went 3-13, were kind of there from the beginning of my career. A chance for me to say ‘thank you' to them. That's really what this time is all about."
(On 1998 and what the new QB might face with rebuilding and will he follow Colts) "I'll always be a Colt. That will never change and Jim has certainly made me feel welcome after this 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. 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. 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. They've been great memories. The relationships with the coaches and the teammates and the support staff here, hey, I have nothing but appreciation."
(On how he is throwing the football) "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. 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 ot throw with some of my old teammates, guys like Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Austin [Collie], [Brandon] Stokley. 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 sort of off limits to the field. So to be cleared to be back out there and throw, I sure have enjoyed that. I'm doing better. I'll continue to work hard and hopefully make some progress."
(On if he feels like himself when he's throwing) "I'm feeling closer and closer. I have to remind myself that it is March. I have a hard time doing that at times. 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 have that freedom. I'm working hard. I still have some work to do, but I am looking forward to doing that work and hopefully keep making progress."
(On his favorite Peyton Manning memory) "That's a hard question. I have too many, I really do. This is a relationship business with coaches, teammates, support staff. The Colts have the greatest equipment guys in the world. I think about those type of relationships. Not necessarily always on the field and the 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. There are so many. I certainly can't pick one. I just know I've been very fortunate, very blessed. I'm truly appreciative and thankful."
(On telling Irsay/Polian in 1998 that he'd beat them if they didn't draft him and if he told Irsay why he should be kept) "Jim and I never got into that situation. We had good, healthy talks about where everything was, about what the circumstances were. The circumstances was the third guy in the talks with us all the time. It wasn't his decision. It wasn't my decision. The circumstances kind of dictated that. It's not what either of us wanted. It's just kind of the way it worked out to be. But 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."
(On why he didn't retire and does he still have something to prove)v"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. 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 just can't say how thankful and how fortunate I feel to have played here. I still love playing quarterback."
JI: (On what assurance he can give the fans that the rebuilding project will produce results like 1998) "I think it's always a difficult process. It's not like I sat there a year and a half ago and said ‘We really want to rebuild. We're looking forward to rebuilding.' It didn't work that way. With injuries and the erosion of time on the roster and different things and the circumstances that dictated ... people lose track of the salary cap and where we're really at there. Just to sign our draft picks we're going to have to make more roster moves. It's something where you know to duplicate what we've done in the last 12-plus years, that's very, very difficult to do. You know how hard it is. Peyton and I have talked about it. We all have through the years, how hard it is to win in this league. It's going to be a process for us. Hopefully we'll watch Peyton win immediately and that we'll continue to slowly build and find our stride. I think that as Peyton and I talked, the hope and plan was it would be a slow continuity, that you would slowly go into it and there wouldn't be such jagged edges to all of sudden rebuilding being upon you.
"But it forced itself upon us. It's a challenge. Both Peyton and I have talked, we're always up for challenges. I know he's up for the challenge and going forward from here. If anyone can do it, he can. At the same time, we're up for the challenge. But we're a ways a way. In '98, we had more pieces in place with Tarik Glenn, Adam Meadows, Marcus Pollard, Ken Dilger, two Hall of Fame players in Marshall Faulk and Marvin Harrison. It's a challenge but I know we'll continue to work at it as we go through each day."