Published November 20, 2014
New general manager Ryan Grigson said the Colts have not decided whether to release the four-time league MVP, whether to renegotiate with him or whether to take Luck with the No. 1 overall pick in April's draft.
Instead, things in Indianapolis are about as uncertain as the status of Manning's right arm.
"Peyton has to be healthy, it has to be something that's spoken on, investigated and talked about," Grigson said Thursday at the scouting combine. "But right now, like I said, it's a process that we're waiting for things to happen and doing the things that we have control of. Things that we don't have control of, we just have no choice but to be patient and (perhaps) all you will be the same."
The constant questions have complicated Indy's decisions.
First, the Colts must determine whether Manning's arm is strong enough to keep playing.
Doctors cleared Manning to begin practice in early December, and there's been rampant speculation about Manning's recovery since then. Recent reports have indicated Manning is not throwing with NFL velocity and some doubt whether he'll ever be the same quarterback.
Running back Joseph Addai, who caught passes from Manning in late December, and former team vice chairman Bill Polian, who watched the same workout, have both said Manning threw with good velocity from 25 to 30 yards then, just 4½ months after having two vertebrae fused. A full recovery can take nine to 12 months, well beyond the March 8 due date for the $28 million bonus owed to Manning.
If the Colts don't pay up, the longtime face of the franchise could become a free agent.
Polian didn't change his story Thursday.
"He was able to stand at the left hash mark and throw it to the right sideline, but he didn't get much beyond 25 to 28 yards," he said. "He was absolutely on the money and threw with good velocity. I was impressed with that workout and he clearly, clearly had come a long way since September."
Polian could not say whether the damaged nerve that was causing weakness in Manning's throwing arm had completely regenerated, though, and that's what Grigson, team owner Jim Irsay and coach Chuck Pagano want to know.
If Manning returns to full strength, he could continue to be one of the league's top players.
But that's the $28 million question, and Grigson and Pagano said they haven't even seen Manning throw yet.
Two weeks ago, Manning worked out at Duke where David Cutcliffe, his former college offensive coordinator, is now the head coach.
"We've talked, and when we've talked it's been mostly about his workouts, the arm and how he's coming along," Pagano said.
Pagano didn't provide any additional details about what Manning said about his arm.
Manning has offered to redo the five-year, $90 million contract he signed in July, a move that could make it more palatable for Indy to keep him, but it's unclear what it would take. The Colts also must decide whether a reworked deal would fit into an already tight salary cap.
"We've been in talks with him (Manning) and he's talked to Jim quite a bit," Grigson said. "We'll, hopefully, over the course of time have more for you. But right now it's not much different than before."
The other complication is Luck.
The Stanford quarterback will get measured, go through medical exams and begin psychological testing Friday in Indy. He won't work out until Sunday, and he is not expected to throw this week.
But that hasn't stopped the questions that overshadowed the buildup to this year's Super Bowl and now threatens to overshadow the combine.
"He's a great player. The last guy in the last row of any stadium could tell you he's a great player," Grigson said. "He's a great person, and an intelligent guy as are a lot of other guys here."
When asked if the Colts intended to start negotiating with Luck when permitted Friday, Grigson denied it.
"We're going to base a lot of our decisions on this week," Grigson said. "It doesn't make sense to me to make any decisions until you have the evaluation process done."
With decision day on Manning just two weeks away, this week's interviews, tests and workouts could go a long way in finally solidifying the futures of two high-profile quarterbacks — Luck and Manning.
"That's all being discussed," Grigson said. "That's part of the whole week -- seeing where we are as a team, seeing how the draft shapes up. There's just so much to this."