Rift growing between Manning, Irsay

A rift is growing between Indianapolis Colts star quarterback Peyton Manning and owner Jim Irsay. Irsay called Manning a "politician," after the injured quarterback griped about the mood at the Colts' training complex after several firings, including coach Jim Caldwell and executives Bill Polian and Chris Polian.

"I don't think it's in the best interest to paint the horseshoe in a negative light, I really don't," Irsay told reporters. "The horseshoe always comes first, and I think one thing he's always known, because he's been around it so long, is that, you know, you keep it in the family."

In six weeks, Manning is due a $28 million bonus. If the Colts don't pay the bonus, then he becomes a free agent.

It seems unlikely that the Colts will pay that bonus due to concerns about Manning's health after neck surgery.

Actor Rob Lowe speculated last week that Manning was planning to retire, but that was apparently unfounded.

"You know, I've got a text or a call out to Rob Lowe and I haven't heard back yet, so I'm going to have to get back to you on that one," new coach Chuck Pagano quipped at his introductory press conference when asked about Manning's status.

Why did Irsay get so mad?

Manning told the Indianapolis Star that the atmosphere at the Colts' offices isn't good for his healing and said people are "walking around on eggshells." Irsay and Manning have some fences to mend.

"I have so much affection and appreciation for Peyton," Irsay said. "I mean we're family. We always will be and we are. He's a politician."

Since Irsay's comments, Manning has backpedaled a bit to do some damage control. He told the Star:

"At this point, Mr. Irsay and I owe it to each other and to the fans of the organization to handle this appropriately and professionally, and I think we will. I just want to keep rehabbing and working hard, and when the time is right for Mr. Irsay and I to sit down, I look forward to a healthy conversation about my future. I've worked too hard and have such great respect and have so many great relationships inside the building and out, and it's incredibly important that those remain."

Via his Twitter account, Irsay wrote later Thursday: "Peyton and I love each other,that goes without saying..I humbly serve n protect the Horseshoe..it is bigger than any individual,including me." For more coverage of the NFL, go to profootball.scout.com.

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