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Irsay anticipates Colts having healthy, well-paid Manning

Jim Irsay isn't worried about Peyton Manning's health. He's just not entirely sure when the quarterback will start throwing to his teammates.

Irsay, the Indianapolis Colts' owner, told reporters Thursday that he doesn't expect offseason neck surgery to prevent his franchise player from playing at his usually high level.

"My sense is that he's doing well," Irsay said at the league's owners meetings in Atlanta. "We've been through (his neck) surgery before. So I anticipate him being ready."

Manning said he has been cautious about being active this offseason because he hasn't been able to be in contact with the Colts' medical and training staffs. Colts general manager Bill Polian said Thursday that he was eager to have Manning visit with team doctors as soon as this weekend if the NFL Players Association ratifies a labor settlement that owners approved.

"We haven't seen him, and we haven't seen the medical records," Polian told senior writer Steve Wyche. "We need to get that information as quickly as we can. As soon as that can begin, that's a good thing. We'll be looking forward to it. Obviously, as soon as our doctors can get their hands on him, that's a good thing, too. Hopefully, it's sooner rather than later on that."

Manning also had neck surgery in March 2010.

The comments from Irsay and Polian come one day after The Indianapolis Star cited a source in reporting that Manning wouldn't be ready to participate at the start of training camp. Irsay didn't elaborate on when Manning would start practicing, but there are indications that the quarterback's recovery from May surgery hasn't gone smoothly.

Archie Manning, the longtime NFL quarterback and father of the league's first family, said in early June that his son's rehabilitation wasn't going as quickly as expected. Two weeks ago at the family's annual football camp in Louisiana, Peyton Manning acknowledged he has taken a cautious approach to rehab because he hasn't been able to work with Colts trainers during the four-month lockout. Manning also limited himself to short tosses at the camp.

Not surprisingly, that has led to speculation that Manning won't be ready to practice when Colts training camp is scheduled to open Aug. 1. Players are supposed to report to Anderson University, about 40 miles northeast of Indianapolis, on July 31.

Even Manning's agent, Tom Condon, can't say for sure when his client will be on the field.

"It's not a great deal," Condon said Wednesday on NFL Network. "He had surgery in late May. It hasn't been that much time from the surgery.

"He's addressed it as vigorously as he can. He's working out and rehabbing hard. He has not had the advantage of going into the Indianapolis Colts' facility or using their trainers. He's been seen regularly by specialists who all say he's doing well."

But Irsay believes Manning not only will be ready for another big season but will live up to the title of highest-paid player in league history. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady currently holds the crown after signing a four-year deal worth $72 million -- a record average of $18 million annually -- in September.

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Irsay has said he already has made an offer to top Brady's, and he expects a five- or six-year deal to be completed with Manning shortly after players and owners ratify a new collective bargaining agreement. The NFL lockout has prevented Condon and the Colts from negotiating during the work stoppage, and the team placed the franchise tag on Manning, a move that could cost Irsay about $23 million if the quarterback signs the one-year tender.

That's not what Irsay wants.

"I'm optimistic that we can get a long-term contract done and he'll be ready to go," he said.

Polian said he doesn't know how long it would take to get Manning under contract. Teams can negotiate with their own free agents beginning Saturday if a settlement is reached.

"One thing that hasn't happened during all this period of time (the lockout) is conversation," Polian said. "I don't know where (Condon) is. I'm looking forward to seeing Peyton personally. I hope that day comes very soon, and then we'll pick it up from there. I couldn't give you any prediction on a timetable. We'll just presume to do our best to do a deal."

Condon said Tuesday that he wouldn't comment on how quickly something could be wrapped up because of the uncertainty surrounding the labor deal.

There are potential obstacles. Manning is one of the players involved in the antitrust suit against the league, and some reports indicated those plaintiffs want a settlement that only allows them to be given the franchise tag once during their careers. The Colts used the tag on Manning in 2004. He eventually signed a seven-year, $98 million deal that allowed the team to rescind the tag.

Condon repeatedly has denied the assertion that Manning is looking for any special treatment because of the lawsuit.

Manning's impact on the Colts has been clear.

When he arrived, the team was coming off a 3-13 season and not a regular contender. But since being selected with the No. 1 overall draft pick in 1998, Manning has led the Colts to 11 playoff appearances, eight division titles, two AFC championships and one Super Bowl crown.

Manning also has thrown for nearly 55,000 yards, owns a career completion percentage of 64.9 and needs only one more touchdown pass to reach 400 in his career. He has broken all of the franchise's major all-time passing marks, most previously held by Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas.

Most importantly, Manning hasn't missed a start in the regular season or playoffs, playing in 227 consecutive games, the second-longest streak in league history among quarterbacks. He also has won a league-record four MVPs and one Super Bowl MVP award. His peers voted him the No. 2 player in NFL Network's "Top 100 Players of 2011."

But Manning's career hasn't been completely injury free.

In 2008, Manning missed all of training camp after having surgery for an infected bursa sac in his left knee. The Colts started that season 3-4, then reeled off nine consecutive wins to make the playoffs again. In March 2010, Manning had surgery to alleviate a pinched nerve in his neck and didn't miss any tine as he led the injury-depleted Colts to another crown. senior writer Steve Wyche and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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