Peyton Manning's agent expects him to play football next season. He didn't say whether he'd be playing for the Indianapolis Colts.
Tom Condon, appearing on NFL Network on Friday morning, said Manning's doctors say he could take a hit and play in a football game without worrying about injury, although it could be a few more months before he is back to 100 percent.
"Peyton certainly expects to return to playing," Condon said. "He wants to play. He's enthusiastic about it. I think the rehabilitation is going well. I think he believes that, also. He's made a substantial amount of progress. We anticipate him playing football next year."
Condon also hinted that Manning would not be negotiating a change in the date for when the Colts must decide whether to pay the $28 million to retain Manning or release him into free agency. The due date is March 8. If the Colts don't agree to pick up the contract, Manning becomes a free agent March 13.
ESPN first reported Thursday night that Manning has been cleared to play. The issue remains when the regeneration of nerves in his triceps will allow him to throw the football with his usual form.
Condon said Manning had honored the first two contracts in his Colts' career _ six- and seven-year deals _ and both sides put the current contract in place for a specific reason. Manning agreed to make it a one-year deal with an option because of his health.
"It's not a matter of wanting to move (the date) or not wanting to move," Condon said. "It exists right now. There are specifics in how it's implemented and when it's going to take place."
Condon said Manning wanted to dispel the notion that he would be risking his health if he returned to the game. Manning had three neck surgeries in a 19-month period.
"He's sound in terms of the structural part of his neck," Condon said. "He can take a hit and play in a football game. How effective could he be in a game? Not as effective as he'd be a few months from now."
Colts owner Jim Irsay responded to the ESPN report by saying Manning has not passed a Colts physical and said the team would release a statement Friday.
"Jimmy and Peyton have a very strong relationship for a really long time," Condon said. "He loves the Colts. He loves Jimmy. They've been great friends. Besides the business relationship, they've had a strong personal relationship. This is a tough time."
Condon called it a "crucial crossroads" for the Colts and Manning.
"Everybody wants to do what's best for Peyton and the Colts, and that's the focus," Condon said.