(CBS News) Wednesday was another reminder that pro football is ultimately a business: The Indianapolis Colts released quarterback Peyton Manning, a future Hall of Famer. With Manning, the Colts were perennial contenders and won the Super Bowl in 2007.
But Manning is 35 and he missed all of last season after his third neck operation. By releasing him now, the Colts won't have to pay him a $28-million bonus.
Manning said goodbye Wednesday during a press conference: "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. To Colts' fans everywhere, thank you very much from the bottom of my heart. I truly have enjoyed being your quarterback."
Manning still wants to play. But who would sign him? CBS News special correspondent and the host of "The NFL Today," James Brown, has been talking to his sources around the league. He spoke with "CBS Evening News" anchor Scott Pelley. A transcript follows.
Pelley: J.B., who would want Manning?
Brown: Scott, he would have a number of suitors. The NFL knows the pedigree of this guy: an 11-time Pro Bowler, a gentleman who was a four-time MVP, and a Super Bowl MVP as well. Rest assured, he would have a number of people. The Miami Dolphins have been mentioned, the Washington Redskins, the Arizona Cardinals, the Seattle Seahawks. He would not be hurting at all for suitors.
Pelley: He's going to suit up for next season?
Brown: There is no question about it. That is his focus. He wanted to be with the Indianapolis Colts but he's dead set on going some place else.
Pelley: But with this neck injury, how healthy is he?
Brown: The doctors have cleared him to play, and he's been very closely monitored by the doctors, and he said he would not do anything foolish. The big question is Scott, in the rough-and-tumble world of football, is whether or not he could take a hit. His arm is getting stronger, the velocity is on the ball. The question is taking a hit from some very tough players in the NFL.
Watch Peyton Manning's press conference on leaving the Colts below:
Pelley: How do you think of the Colts as an organization handled this move?
Brown: I think with the kind of class that could be expected. It was a tough business decision predicated not so much about money, although the $28 million was due to Peyton Manning on March 8 tomorrow. It just forced a decision that the Colts have the number one pick in the draft, an opportunity to get a Peyton Manning-type of quarterback in Andrew Luck, the talented youngster from Stanford. [The Colts] are in a rebuilding phase. The question was 'Why delay the rebuilding process? Let's start that now with the guy who has the potential to be a Peyton Manning-type of quarterback.'
Pelley: James Brown, host of "The NFL Today" and CBS News special correspondent, thanks very much.