Over just the past few days we’ve heard that Peyton Manning’s recovery is still moving dangerously slow, and that we may have already watched him throw his last NFL pass, even though he didn’t throw one this year. On Monday we gently encouraged you to start accepting that possible reality, and start worrying much more about his retirement instead of his likely departure from Indianapolis. And then last night the latest daunting report was a lack of velocity in Manning’s arm, velocity that may never return.

Someone should have told Manning about all of that.

Manning spoke to ESPN’s Trey Wingo in a two-part interview, and the opening segment was aired this afternoon. First we learned that the elder quarterback brother hasn’t exactly enjoyed getting all the attention while little bro is in town preparing to play in a rather important football game Sunday.

Then Manning shared his recovery prognosis, and although it didn’t sound dreamy, it wasn’t the nightmare that we’ve been envisioning as those reports have emerged this week either.

Manning told Wingo that he’s been in constant communication with his doctors, and that communication has resulted in good news. He doesn’t know where he’ll be playing to start the 2012 regular season, but it definitely sounds like he plans to be playing somewhere.

“Everything’s right on point, and I’ll be cleared and ready to play,” he said.

Optimism was evident in his voice and general demeanor, which makes sense. This is an athlete who’s only known football as a passion and occupation, so at this point optimism is his only option. There are no guarantees with a neck injury that’s as intricate and delicate as Manning’s, and he didn’t make any.

What’s important to take from his words is the image of a shining, glorious beacon of light he seems to see at the end of the tunnel, while we’re all seeing darkness. He said that earlier today he had another rehab session, and walked away from it feeling good. So he’s working hard and diligently, and we’ve come to expect and know nothing less than that from the Colts’ franchise quarterback during his 14 years in Indianapolis.

“I’m just going to try to keep getting better, and that’s the plan from here on out,” he said.

He may indeed be on schedule, and he may not be ready to walk away from football just yet. But whether or not he shows enough progress in the six weeks between now and March 8 is another matter. That’s when his $28 million bonus is due, meaning that early March deadline is also when team owner Jim Irsay will have to make a firm decision on the future of the man who–let’s face it–is responsible for the Super Bowl coming to Indianapolis this week, an event that will deposit a tidy sum of money into Irsay’s pockets.

For his part, Manning said that he’s just going to continue to rehab, and when he’s not in a gym somewhere this week he’ll be enjoying the Super Bowl festivities around the city, and he’ll be another Manning family cheerleader supporting his brother.

But a difficult conversation will take place with Irsay soon, possibly next week.

“It’ll happen soon enough, and I’m sure you’ll know when it does,” he said, referring to both Wingo, and his anxious audience.

He also dismissed the notion that his relationship with Irsay is fractured in any way, saying that “it’s great, and it’ll continue to be great for the rest of our lives.”

Now we’ll just wait to see if that relationship will continue to be between an employee and his superior, or between two friends who fondly remember the good ol’ days.

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