Dolphins' Philbin spends nearly six hours with Peyton Manning

DAVIE, Fla. -- After days of highly publicized meetings with the Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals, Peyton Manning successfully escaped the spotlight for his third free-agent visit, this one with the Miami Dolphins.

It required some covert operations to do it.

On Monday afternoon, several key members of the Dolphins (most importantly new coach Joe Philbin) boarded a flight to Indianapolis, where Manning recently has been staying, according to a team source.

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Philbin spent nearly six hours with Manning, a meeting that rarely -- if ever -- strayed from football strategy, the source said. Other details, including who attended the meeting other than Philbin, were limited. The team remains very sensitive about letting out any details that could irritate the former Indianapolis Colts quarterback.

Although strictly speculative at this point, the length of the meeting suggests the Dolphins still remain very much in the hunt for Manning's services despite widespread concern that they'd fallen out of favor.

On Friday, a Dolphins source said a meeting with Manning would take place "potentially Sunday, Monday or Tuesday," but because of the fluid nature of Manning's schedule, they hadn't been able to lock down an exact time or place for the meeting. It ended up happening Monday.

On Monday afternoon, a source also said the Dolphins had scheduled a meeting between Manning and Philbin -- but the source was unwilling to say when and where. Secrecy in the details of the plan has been important to the Dolphins, and Monday, they successfully orchestrated a meeting while preserving that secrecy.

Follow Jeff Darlington on Twitter @JeffDarlington.