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Manning's agent: QB '100 percent' determined to play again

INDIANAPOLIS -- The tit-for-tat Peyton Manning-vs.-the-Colts battle has engulfed much of the Super Bowl week hype, with less than 48 hours left before kickoff, really boils down to two things.

The first, of course, concerns whether or not the franchise will hold on to its icon, a question that seems destined to be answered "No." The second, then, is if Manning will ever play football again. So on Friday afternoon, I asked Manning's agent, Tom Condon, what the chances of his client's return are.

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"I would think that we're at 100 percent," Condon said. "He's not going to retire. And he absolutely is determined to play, and he's been making a good deal of improvement, and I expect him to be back on the football field again."

And that leads you to a third question: "When?"

Earlier in the week, Eli and Peyton's older brother, Cooper Manning said "anyone predicting what will happen now going forward is just wasting their breath."

Condon did concede that this is a period of uncertainty for the middle Manning brother as the youngest prepares for his second Super Bowl appearance. On Thursday night, Manning's spinal surgeon, Dr. Robert Watkins, "cleared" the quarterback to play. But at this point, that simply means that the spinal fusion was successful, something that was expected all along. The variable in the equation is, and has been, the regeneration of nerves that Manning needs to throw like a pro again.

It could takes weeks. It could take months. It could be longer than that. The good news, according to Condon, is that the nerve regeneration has commenced, though he was unclear about the pace of recovery.

"I have heard the doctors say that with different people it comes at different rates," Condon said. "So from that perspective, no one can be certain when it occurs, except that we do know that he's making a great deal of progress. The regeneration is continuing, his strength is much better, and so we feel really positive about it and he's determined to play."

The next milepost is the well-publicized date of March 8, when a $28 million option bonus is due from the Colts.

That, for all intents and purposes, is fish-or-cut-bait time for Indianapolis. Manning's camp could agree to push the deadline back, but has shown no inclination to do so yet, and claims the Colts haven't even approached them about the possibility.

"We've never even discussed it," Condon said. "It's one of those things where everyone understood what the significance of the date was when we negotiated the contract. So I really don't think that comes into it. This will be an emotional decision for both parties. ... Peyton understands that at some point the relationship and the good times and the good feelings that they've had with each other have to be meshed with a business decision. We're comfortable with that."

Condon also said that Manning is OK with whatever decision the Colts make. The agent emphasized, "It'd be great to start and finish in the same place," and firmed Manning's desire to stay.

But there are realities to this situation that are fully expected to push this decision the other way, something to which Manning isn't blind.

"I certainly think with a new general manager, a new head coach, the first pick in the draft, a couple of really good quarterbacks available with (Robert Griffin III) and Andrew (Luck), everyone understands that's certainly a possibility," Condon said. "And I think that at some point, the emotion and the personal relationship would continue on for the rest of their lives, I would expect. But if the Colts have to make the decision, I think everyone would understand it."

Condon left the timeframe for a decision open-ended, saying he expects one in "the next month," which covers the time leading up to March 8.

The important thing, he added, is that Manning is determined to move forward with his career. And if that happens somewhere else, he's ready for that.

"As much as he would love to finish his career as a Colt, if that's not going to happen, then there certainly won't be any hard feelings on his part," Condon said. "He understands that despite the fact that you develop some really close personal relationships when you're in a tough business like this, and you have to rely on each other, he doesn't anticipate that's ever gonna change. It's just that there's a business part to this football, too, and he's well-aware of that."

Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @AlbertBreer.

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