INDIANAPOLIS – When asked directly if he was retiring due to a neck injury that has already cost him the entire 2011 season, Peyton Manning offered a brief laugh and a smile.
"I have no plans on doing that," he said Tuesday afternoon.
Manning's future with the Indianapolis Colts, the status of his career and the seemingly shaky relationship he has with owner Jim Irsay have become a soap opera here that's overshadowed parts of the buildup for Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots.
Manning knows he can't stop it. He didn't really even try.
"All the other talk, it is what it is," he said in a hallway of the JW Marriott hotel, where he'd just come from a meeting with a corporate sponsor.
"My plan hasn't changed," he said. "I'm on track with what the doctors told me to do. I'm doing that. I'm rehabbing hard. And I'm enjoying this week.
"I'm working hard. I really had a good rehab session today [which included throwing to wide receivers]. I continue to work hard. I continue to make progress. The doctors are encouraged and that's encouraging to me. I'll keep doing that."
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As for his spat with Irsay, which included the owner dubbing Manning a "politician" last week for seemingly trying to get the fans on his side, Manning said it would work out. He said he plans on attending a dinner with Irsay on Sunday. The host owner traditionally throws a big meal before the game with assorted NFL people.
"Jim and I will talk at the right time," Manning said. "[Right now] there's nothing to talk about."
For rather dire subjects, this was an upbeat, matter-of-fact Manning.
He certainly wasn't hiding from reporters, fans or anyone. This may not have been how he envisioned it when Indianapolis was awarded the Super Bowl, but there is a sense of civic pride in him. He was already pointing out how smoothly the event was running and campaigning for Indianapolis to get in a regular rotation of cities such as Miami, New Orleans and San Diego.
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Still, the questions hover. The Colts have the No. 1 pick in April's draft and Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck is the presumed choice. The team owes Manning a $28 million bonus in early March and could cut him before then.
And who knows if he'll even play again. Anywhere.
Any talk that he's given up on rehab though appears inaccurate.
"Great session today," Manning said.
And so now he's the city's first fan. He got his brother Eli a table for 20 at the famed St. Elmo's Steakhouse downtown and laughed about how he heard the Giants' linemen handled the signature shrimp cocktail, which features a flame-throwing horseradish-powered sauce.
And of course, Eli got stuck with the bill.
"I'm sure that was a healthy one," he said.
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As for any sibling rivalry or worries that Eli will pass him in Super Bowl victories, 2-to-1, with a win Sunday, Manning said "forget it." It's not something either brother is thinking about and, besides, it won't matter.
"Everybody wants to talk about after the game and what's going to happen. Legacies and all of that," he said. "He and I are more about the journey than the destination. This is a fun week.
"I've always wanted nothing but the best for Eli. I hope he breaks every record I've ever had. That's how much I care about him."
Soon, Manning was off to another event, another big moment in his city. Downtown is rocking, he said. The weather is great.
And another rehab session was scheduled for Wednesday. If the end is near for Peyton Manning – whether with the Colts or in all of football – he doesn't appear to know it, doesn't appear to be worrying about it.