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Manning mania now in full effect at combine

  • By Jeff Darlington NFL.com
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Bill Baptist/AP
With potential free agency looming, future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning is the hottest topic at the combine.

INDIANAPOLIS -- On one end of the Lucas Oil Stadium concourse where news conferences were conducted Thursday, New York Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum dodged questions about his team's potential interest in Peyton Manning.

On the other end, at the same time, Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson dodged questions about Manning's current health status.

Both voices, projected through microphones, clashed in the center of the room.

It was like a distorted symphony of non-answers. And if you just sat back and watched, particularly noting the two large posters of Manning on each side of Grigson (since this is an area of the stadium normally reserved for fans), you couldn't do anything else but chuckle.

Peyton this, Peyton that. Peyton to the Dolphins? How about Peyton to the Jets? Hey, Jim Harbaugh, you coached Andrew Luck at Stanford. What do you think about him replacing ... Peyton Manning?

No doubt, Manning is figuratively and literally everywhere at the NFL Scouting Combine this week, his face plastered to the side of the stadium where dozens of general managers must be wondering if he'll be released from the Colts in the coming weeks.

Nobody provided any insight into such matters -- Grigson said he couldn't give any updates on Manning's health -- but sometimes the non-answers were enough to provide real ones. That certainly seemed to be the case with the Jets, who continue to leave plenty of reason to think they'll pursue Manning if he springs available (and if he's healthy).

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In November, Jets coach Rex Ryan said Sanchez is "going to be our quarterback as long as I'm here." Although Ryan said he stands by that statement, his comments Thursday didn't quite project the same confidence.

"I think Mark Sanchez is an outstanding quarterback," Ryan said when pressed on the possibility of adding Manning. "But will we look at every scenario? Of course. That's what we do. For us to say we're not going to look at this quarterback or that quarterback, that's who we are."

But what about what he said about Sanchez being in New York as long as him? There's no reason to look at Manning if he truly believes Sanchez is, you know, the Sanchize.

"I definitely think Mark will be ... he's our quarterback now," Ryan said. "He's got a great future. Last I checked, Mark's under contract. And he's our quarterback."

That's true. Sanchez is under contract. Could he be replaced by Manning nonetheless? We'll have to wait to find out.

But at least this day, it didn't belong to Sanchez. Or Ryan. Or even the quarterbacks here at the combine who will test to become the next big thing. Thursday, without question, was about the very player who helped build these walls at Lucas Oil Stadium.

On this day, Manning was everywhere.

Follow Jeff Darlington on Twitter @jeffdarlington

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