1st stop: Peyton Manning meets with Broncos brass
March 10, 2012
DENVER (AP) — Peyton Manning spent the day on Tim Tebow’s turf, meeting for nearly six hours with the Denver Broncos on Day 1 of his free-agent tour of the NFL.
Two days after being released by the Indianapolis Colts, Manning got the star treatment Friday in the Mile High City — flown to town on a chartered plane from Miami and spending the day with Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway, who also serves as Denver’s vice president of football operations.
They spent the afternoon and early evening together; coach John Fox and general manager Brian Xanders were along, too, as Manning took a tour of the complex.
When he left after the marathon meeting, Manning didn’t talk to reporters and jumped into the same silver SUV he arrived in, then was whisked away.
His next stop? There are more than a half-dozen other suitors, with Arizona and Miami among those expressing interest.
But spending the first day in Denver certainly made for some entertaining conversation. This is a city wrapped up in the debate over whether Tebow is a long-term solution at quarterback or just a feel-good story for a season. The mere fact the Broncos had Manning in for a visit might speak volumes about which way they’re leaning.
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As news of Manning’s arrival spread — with reporters and TV helicopters hovering over every inch of the Broncos facility — a handful of fans started making their way to the training facility.
“Let’s do it, Peyton!” one of them yelled through a gate upon spotting the NFL’s marquee free agent. Manning glanced over and gave a quick wave.
Across the parking lot, one fan with an Elway jersey, another with a Tebow jersey and a few more with Manning’s iconic Colts No. 18 showed up.
“Peyton Manning is a terrific leader. He’s phenomenal to watch,” said Graham Millar, a lifelong Colts fan who now lives in Aurora, Colo. “You feel like you’re watching a psychic. But it’s preparation. He knows exactly what to expect from every single player on that field.”
According to The Denver Post, the Broncos sent a plane to pick up Manning in South Florida, where he has a condo. He had traveled there after an emotional news conference in Indianapolis on Wednesday, when he said goodbye to the team that drafted him No. 1 overall in 1998 and he led to the 2007 Super Bowl championship.
The plane then stopped in Stillwater, Okla., where Elway, Fox and Xanders were watching Oklahoma State’s pro day. The Broncos management met up with Manning, and everyone flew back to Denver.
ESPNews carried live coverage of the flight arriving at an airport in Denver, then also followed Manning’s car ride to Broncos team headquarters. And while Manning met with Elway and Co., inside the building, a blue helicopter hovered overhead outside.
And this was only the start.
Arizona, Miami, Kansas City, Seattle, Tennessee and Washington are among the other possible destinations, as Manning becomes one of the most coveted free agents in the history of the league, even though he turns 36 later this month and is coming off a series of neck operations. He missed all of last season, and the Colts decided to cut ties rather than pay a $28 million bonus that was due this week.
It’s not often that teams get a chance to sign a QB who has thrown for more than 50,000 yards and nearly 400 touchdowns, been picked for 11 Pro Bowls, and been a Super Bowl MVP. Manning’s importance to the Colts’ success was never more apparent than last season, when their record plummeted to 2-14 without him.
Because he was released and went on the waiver wire Wednesday, Manning is allowed to negotiate and sign with any club immediately; he does not need to wait until the free-agent period that begins next Tuesday.
Chiefs owner Clark Hunt confirmed in an interview with NBC Sports Network that was scheduled to air Friday evening that his team is pursuing Manning.
“I don’t know how important money will be to him, but I’m sure it will be part of the equation,” Hunt said. “He’s going to be looking for an environment that he’s comfortable in.”
He declined to say whether the Chiefs already have offered Manning a contract.
“I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to talk about discussions at this point,” Hunt said, “but he is somebody that we’ll want to talk to.”