TEMPE, Ariz. — Peyton Manning arrived at the Arizona Cardinals’ headquarters Sunday, the second stop for the star free agent in his search for a new team.
Manning waved and nodded to photographers and reporters from the passenger side of a white SUV driven by coach Ken Whisenhunt as it passed through the facility’s security gate in the morning.
Larry Fitzgerald, one of the best receivers in the game and considered a prime reason Manning might choose Arizona, arrived a few minutes ahead of Manning. General manager Rod Graves and offensive line coach Russ Grimm were already at the facility when Manning got there.
Team president Michael Bidwill arrived after Manning.
“Get it done, Michael,” a fan yelled. “Come on, buddy.”
A smattering of fans filtered in as news got out that Manning was there.
Among the earliest to arrive was 26-year-old Jarred Light, an Indianapolis Colts fan who moved to the Phoenix area 1 1/2 years ago.
“I pretty much grew up around him,” he said. “When I was 12 is when he came to Indy. Now I’m 26, so pretty much ever since I’ve been interested in football he was my favorite everything. I’ve seen him a couple of times in Indy from living there so many years, and now I just wanted to come out here and see if he will come to the Cardinals.”
Manning arrived Saturday night from Denver, where he had met with Broncos’ officials. He was expected to go to his Florida home after his Cardinals’ visit. It was unclear whether he still planned to meet with the Dolphins.
Manning reportedly wants to make a decision in the next few days. Time is of the essence for the Cardinals, who are scheduled to pay quarterback Kevin Kolb $7 million if he is on the roster Thursday.
The four-time MVP was released by the Colts as the lead move in the team’s massive restructuring of its roster. With Manning out the entire season while undergoing a series of neck surgeries, Indianapolis had the worst record in the NFL and is expected to select quarterback Andrew Luck with the No. 1 pick in the draft.
In addition to Fitzgerald, the Cardinals have a coach who is flexible in his approach to the game. He built a team around Kurt Warner and gave the veteran quarterback free rein to change the plays at the line of scrimmage. As a result, the long-suffering Cardinals’ franchise made a surprise run to the Super Bowl in the 2008 season and captured the NFC West title again the next year.
The Cardinals’ also have a state-of-the-art stadium with a retractable roof and a natural grass field. The addition of Manning might prompt the franchise to follow through on earlier plans to build a practice “bubble” so players can escape the stifling heat during summer mini-camps and early-season practices.
A concern could be Arizona’s inconsistent offensive line that could lose left tackle Levi Brown. That makes the presence of Grimm, the team’s assistant head coach, interesting.