MIAMI (AP) — Touchdown, Peyton Manning.
The former Indianapolis Colts quarterback landed late Wednesday afternoon in South Florida, drawing the attention of local TV news helicopters and NFL fans everywhere.
His private plane arrived at a small airport 30 minutes from the Miami Dolphins’ complex, but he then rode off in a different direction with the news media in pursuit. When his van reached Miami Beach, it pulled over in a church parking lot, and Manning emerged to tell reporters South Florida might not be his final destination.
Manning has a condo here and has been working out with former Colts teammate Reggie Wayne, who lives in South Florida. Manning’s not necessarily Dolphins-bound, he said.
“I have no idea who wants me, what team wants me, how this process works,” Manning said. “I don’t know if it’s like college recruiting where you go take visits. I mean, this is all so new to me.”
One TV station broadcast the interview live, even staying with the audio feed when the video turned shaky.
Manning landed in South Florida just four hours after he bid the Colts goodbye at a news conference in Indianapolis. They cut the injured quarterback rather than pay a $28 million bonus due this week.
The Dolphins are one of several teams expected to court Manning, but a person familiar with their plans said Manning wasn’t in town to meet with the team. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the Dolphins hadn’t commented on Manning.
Other teams considered potential suitors for Manning include the Cardinals, Broncos, Chiefs, Jets, Seahawks, Titans and Redskins.
“I literally have not had one conversation with anyone about these teams,” Manning said. “It has been so hard for me trying to figure out some closure with my situation with the Colts. …
“I haven’t thought about teams and I don’t know who is interested, I really don’t. This is all new to me. But look, the Miami Dolphins have a great organization, a great history there, they have new people in place. And so you have no idea what teams are interested.”
When the Dolphins hired Joe Philbin as coach in January, team officials privately said owner Stephen Ross would strongly pursue Manning if he became available.
The team has started 16 quarterbacks since Dan Marino retired. The incumbent is Matt Moore, who played well last year after Chad Henne was sidelined in Week 4 by a season-ending shoulder injury.
But there are doubts that Moore is a franchise quarterback, and if the Dolphins don’t sign Manning, they may pursue the Packers’ Matt Flynn or try to trade up from the No. 8 spot and draft a quarterback in the first round in April.
Henne is a free agent and unlikely to return.
Miami has developed a recent habit for big-name acquisitions. The Heat landed LeBron James and Chris Bosh, and the Marlins added four All-Stars and manager Ozzie Guillen in a recent spree.
Heat guard Dwyane Wade tweeted that he liked the idea of Manning joining the Dolphins.
Wade said, “peyton that number 18 wld look gr8 in a dolphins uniform..steve ross let’s go.. marlins & heat style..All in.”
James also endorsed the notion of Manning joining the Dolphins.
“Hey, I’m just saying, I heard the Dolphins need a quarterback,” he said. “And Peyton is available.”
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.