It's official. Former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning will play for the Denver Broncos.
At a news conference in Denver Tuesday afternoon, Manning told reporters, "I'm very excited to begin the next chapter of my playing career with the Broncos."
Manning signed a five-year, $96 million contract with Denver.
Manning said the Broncos convinced him they were "committed to winning" and that they also have a great fan base. He said it's a "special football environment" and he was glad to be a part of it.
"In the end I felt the Broncos were just a great fit," said Manning.
Manning said John Elway's "knowledge and respect for the game is evident in everything he does." After talking with the coaches and staff, Manning said he became confident that "this is a great place to be."
Manning will wear Frank Tripucka's number 18 jersey for the Broncos. He said he spoke with Tripucka Tuesday morning and although taking the number out of retirement went against Manning's principles, Tripucka persuaded him to wear it.
"Being a guy that appreciates the history of football, I believe when a number is retired it should stay retired. But in talking to Frank Tripucka, I feel that he really wants me to wear his number. It was a very humbling conversation and I'm honored to wear his number being another quarterback for the Denver Broncos as Mr. Tripucka was years ago; he was the first quarterback to play here...so I'm following his wishes to wear [the number]...that's what he wants me to do and I'll be glad to do that."
Manning outlined the process of his final decision to go with Denver.
"Monday morning, I first called two other teams that had kind of gotten down to the finalists in this process. I thought it was important to let them know I truly appreciated the time they took with me. I really enjoyed talking football with some other teams throughout this process. The NFL's in great shape. There's some great owners, great coaches, great people in leadership around the NFL so that was exciting for me."
"I had my first visit here; I felt very comfortable here. The thing that Coach Fox and John Elway and I talked about was that both sides had to be comfortable and if neither side was comfortable I think winning probably wouldn't follow."
"So I felt very comfortable here; John and Coach Fox felt comfortable and hopefully that leads to many wins," he added.
Peyton said there wasn't one deciding factor.
"In the tough decisions I've had to make - where to go to college, whether to stay or go my senior year, you have options and you really believe you can make any of them work. I've always believed that it's up to me and the people here around me to make this the right decision. It'll be speculated on and debated for months to come whether it was the right decision or not. I'm gonna go out and try to make it the right decision."
The question now is, could Peyton be bringing his friends with him?
KUSA-TV sports anchor Rod Mackey tells Eyewitness News former Colts wide receiver Brandon Stokley is already in Denver to talk with the Broncos and center Jeff Saturday and tight end Dallas Clark, who was released by the team earlier this month, are also supposed to talk to the team about rejoining the four-time MVP.
The Colts cut him loose on March 7th - just two weeks ago. Since then, Manning met with a total of five teams, but late last week narrowed his decision down to three finalists: the Tennessee Titans, San Francisco 49ers and the Denver Broncos.
Last Friday, Eyewitness News reported that the Broncos traveled to Duke University to watch Peyton throw. On Monday came the news that Manning gave his agent, Tom Condon, the green light to negotiate a contract with Denver.
Manning called Denver general manager John Elway Monday morning to tell him he was ready to go to work for the Broncos.
The two sides are in the process of working out a long term deal. It's reportedly a five-year contract worth $90 million.
Manning reportedly called Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams and told him that he had chosen to negotiate with the Broncos. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on the matter.
Adams released a statement Monday confirming the Titans were out of the running and told The Tennessean that, "He called me himself and told me he wasn't coming, that he made his mind up to go with Denver."
Former Colts Vice Chairman Bill Polian told ESPN he was "a bit surprised he made the decision this quickly."
Polian said Manning's main goal was to "make sure there was a comfort level on each side of the equation" with the coach and franchise being comfortable with Peyton and vice versa.
Polian believes there was the same issue with the Tennessee Titans. "My sense was it was a tough call but in the end I think Denver provided a lot of things that he felt really comfortable with and were really gonna give him an edge."
As Colts fans know, Polian says Peyton is "a very deliberate person and he doesn't do things on a whim, that's for sure, so I felt he'd give it a couple more days." But Polian added that it's more important what happens after the decision is made, and that if Manning is "ready to get on with the next phase of his life and Denver is it," then "why wait if you feel that way?"
In Denver, Broncos linebacker Joe Mays was excited to get a three-year, $12 million deal to stay in Denver. After hearing Manning had chosen the Broncos over other suitors Monday, he was even more thrilled.
Mays canceled a trip to visit with the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday after visiting with the New Orleans Saints. He said he'll sign the contract, which includes $4 million in guarantees, on Monday.
Mays flew back to Denver on Monday and said he was overjoyed when he heard Manning had chosen Denver as his next destination, saying the four-time MVP "just has the `it' factor when it comes to winning games."
Mays has started 17 games since arriving in Denver from Philadelphia in 2010. He had 75 tackles and 12 starts last season.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved and VideoIndiana Inc.)
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