“I’m throwing it pretty well,” Manning told reporters Wednesday at a news conference in Indianapolis announcing his departure from the Colts. “I still got some work to do. I got some progress to make, but I’ve come a long way.”
The third-ranked quarterback on the all-time list of touchdown passes and passing yards is available for any team to sign. But there’s a significant catch, as he missed the entire 2011 season and his health status remains unclear.
Manning, who turns 36 this month, has spent the winter trying to strengthen his throwing arm by participating in a passing and rehabilitation program in North Carolina and in South Florida. His success in that ongoing process will shape the final years of his storied career.
“Everybody knows Peyton Manning is, if not the best quarterback to ever play the game, he’s tied for it,” Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said in January on ESPN980 radio. “The question on Peyton is his health.
“You have a guy like that who is so driven, so passionate about football and truly enjoys it and the way he plays. I know he’s up there in age, but if he’s healthy, age is not an issue. You just hope his neck is all right, and then he’ll be Peyton Manning.”
Manning never missed a game in 13 seasons prior to 2011. His ability to read defenses, his timing and his accuracy helped him win four league MVP awards and a Super Bowl championship.
Whether he can recapture that form remains uncertain. He was asked Wednesday whether he feels like his old self.
“I’m feeling closer and closer,” Manning said. “I have to remind myself that it is March. I have a hard time doing that at times. Like I said, I still have some work to do, but I’m looking forward to doing that work and keep making progress.”
Manning told reporters that he hadn’t thought about where he will continue his career, and his agent did not return requests for comment Wednesday. That question promises to dominate the headlines until he chooses a team.
Manning and Colts owner Jim Irsay spoke Wednesday about Manning’s desire to join a Super Bowl contender, which would seemingly put the Redskins at a disadvantage. Washington is coming off four consecutive lastplace finishes, including a 5-11 record in 2011.
One reason for that is a dearth of playmakers on offense. Other suitors such as Miami and the New York Jets have more formidable supporting casts in place. The Redskins, however, have approximately $40 million of salary cap space with which to add talent this offseason.
“I’m not sure that Washington has the assets currently that would be attractive to Peyton Manning,” former Super Bowl champion coach Brian Billick said Wednesday on NFL Network.
There’s also the question of how Manning and Redskins coach Mike Shanahan would coexist. Manning was known in Indianapolis for taking initiative to run practices and call plays. Shanahan demands an even greater level of control over the organization.
Redskins decision-makers, however, believe the partnership would be healthy, with Mike and Kyle Shanahan willing to defer to Manning because of his track record and the Redskins’ desperate quarterback situation.
Before all of that is sorted out, though, there’s the matter of Manning’s fitness.
“If he can recover,” Kyle Shanahan said in January, “and the doctors say he’s healthy, he says he’s healthy — that’s enough for me.” “At some point, you just have to bring this stuff out into public. We’ve given the leadership all kinds of time, all kinds of excuses, but it’s been six months,” Mr. Beck said.
Immigration is one of the thorniest political issues as the general election in November approaches. Immigrant rights groups have blasted President Obama for failing to move a legalization bill, but Numbersusa’s decision shows there is just as much frustration on the other side with Republicans, who won control of the House in 2010 while promising to get tough on illegal immigration, but who have not pushed through any major crackdown.
Mr. Beck wouldn’t say how much money would be spent on the ads, which will target various districts that may include Mr. Boehner’s in Ohio.
Michael Steel, a spokesman for Mr. Boehner, blamed the legislative process for the bill’s delay.
“Speaker Boehner has supported legislation with E-verify in the past, and the issue is currently working its way through the committee process,” Mr. Steel told The Washington Times in an email.
The E-verify bill, sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, passed out of the Texas Republican’s committee on a 22-13 vote last year and is sitting in the Ways and Means Committee. A spokeswoman for that committee didn’t return a message seeking comment.
Mr. Beck said the blockade is by design and that he has heard from people who said Mr. Boehner told them he won’t take up the bill in an election year.
“Republican House Speaker John Boehner refuses to let the House of Representatives vote on E-verify,” the group’s radio ad says, telling voters to call Mr. Boehner and demand that he hold a vote on the bill. “If he refuses, ask him why Republicans deserve your vote in November.”
The television ad is similar, urging voters to call Mr. Boehner and ask him why he won’t schedule the legislation.
“Tell him to bring E-verify up for a vote, or he might not like your vote in November,” the announcer says.
E-verify, which relies on Social Security numbers, is voluntary for most businesses in the U.S., though a handful of states have enacted laws mandating its use for corporations operating within their jurisdictions. The Supreme Court has upheld Arizona’s version of that law.
Under federal law, all federal agencies and contractors, and all congressional offices, are supposed to use the database.
Numbersusa wants all businesses to use the system, arguing that it would push out illegal workers and leave those jobs for citizens and legal immigrants.
Mr. Obama’s administration has said he wants E-verify to be made mandatory, but only as part of an overall legalization of the 11 million illegal immigrants already in the country.
Meanwhile, three of the four Republican presidential candidates have called for E-verify to be made mandatory as part of their security-first approach. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas is the only one who has rejected the idea, arguing that it would turn businesses into immigration police forces.
Mr. Beck said Republicans should see the issue as a winner, not a political liability. He said Democrats already have enough ammunition to attack Republicans for their stance on cracking down on illegal immigration, and there is little left for the GOP to lose by pushing for E-verify.
A Washington Times/jz Analytics Poll released Monday found that Republican primary voters were more than willing to accept the political price for a get-tough approach.
By nearly 4-to-1, 68 percent to 18 percent, likely voters said the GOP should pursue stricter enforcement even if it would cost Republicans the support of Hispanics. That was true for self-identified Republicans and for independents who planned to vote during the GOP primaries.
Opponents say the system is too prone to error, though the Obama administration says it has improved dramatically over the past five years.
Groups that have pressured lawmakers against E-verify include the National Small Business Association, which sent a letter to House members last year calling the system broken. The association argued that the penalty for failing to use the system — up to 10 years in prison per offense — “is as severe as the punishment for second-degree murder in many states.”
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay announces that the NFL football team will release quarterback Peyton Manning during a news conference in Indianapolis on Wednesday as Manning listens. The quarterback plans to continue his career.
Mike Shanahan, head coach of the Washington Redskins, takes advantage of a chance to talk with Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning after an NFL preseason football game in Indianapolis in 2011.