The ending that most anticipated between the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning will arrive at noon ET on Wednesday, league sources told NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora, when the team is expected to announce the release of the four-time NFL MVP in a joint press conference that will air live on NFL Network.
NFL Network's Albert Breer reported that Irsay and Manning traveled from Florida to Indianapolis on Wednesday. The two traveled together on the owner's private jet and, after arriving in Indianapolis, left together in Irsay's car.
"We're gonna do this the right way," Manning said, according to WISH-TV in Indianapolis. "We'll talk to you guys tomorrow."
Early Wednesday, Irsay tweeted: "It was a long,emotional flight...now the sun is trying to rise."
The move has been widely expected, as the rebuilding Colts owe Manning, the first overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, a $28 million bonus if he is still on the team's roster at the start of the league year, which is March 13. Manning will become a free agent immediately. Several league executives from teams with interest in Manning told La Canfora they will begin contacting his agent, Tom Condon, immediately after the release becomes official.
As far back as late January, Manning, 35, said he had no plans to retire after missing the entire 2011 season following four procedures to repair two vertebrae in his neck. His most recent surgery on Sept. 9, a cervical neck fusion procedure, was intended to repair a damaged nerve in Manning's neck that caused weakness in his throwing arm.
Those close to Manning have maintained his desire to continue his career despite concerns that nerves in his arm had not been healing and were prohibiting his throwing. Manning has been throwing since December, and four sources with knowledge of his rehab process recently told Breer that Manning has steadily regained strength in his grip and triceps. Manning took part in an aggressive throwing session at Duke University this past Friday in which he was filmed throwing deep balls in a Colts jersey and helmet.
Irsay publicly stated in February that the team would welcome Manning back, but only on a restructured contract that reflected the uncertainty of the quarterback's recovery.
Manning's impending departure marks the end of a remarkably successful era that included leading the Colts to a win in Super Bowl XLI.
The five-time All-Pro selection started every meaningful game for 13 seasons in Indianapolis, 227 straight including the playoffs, and took the Colts from perennial also-ran to one of the NFL's model franchises. The Colts have won 150 games, eight division titles, two AFC championships and the franchise's first Super Bowl since moving from Baltimore in 1984 with Manning at the helm. The Colts broke the league record for most regular-season wins in a decade (115) and tied Dallas' league record for most consecutive playoff appearances (nine).
Manning has the fourth-most wins (141) of any quarterback since 1950, is third in league history in passing yards (54,828) and fourth in passing touchdowns (399). The only non-active quarterback with a passer rating higher than Manning's 94.9 is Hall of Fame signal-caller Steve Young (96.8).
FoxSports insider and NFL Network contributor Jay Glazer reported late Tuesday that Irsay will invite "a majority" of Colts employees to Manning's farewell Wednesday at the team's facilities.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.