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Manning spends six hours at Cardinals HQ

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Posted March 12, 2012 @ 2:15 a.m. ET

By Bob Baum, AP Sports Writer

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Peyton Manning had another marathon session during the second stop in his search for a new team.

The free-agent quarterback spent nearly six hours at the Arizona Cardinals' headquarters and training facility on Sunday in meetings designed to lure the superstar to the desert.

The session was even longer than the nearly six hours Manning spent at the Broncos' facility in Denver on Friday night.

Manning waved and smiled at cheering fans as he walked from the building to coach Ken Whisenhunt's white SUV. With the coach at the wheel, Manning waved again as the SUV pulled through the security gate and past the loud supporters.

He was expected to return to his home in Florida. It was unclear whether the four-time MVP planned to meet with the Dolphins.

Titans owner Bud Adams told The Tennessean on Sunday that he has contacted Manning's agent, Tom Condon, to express his interest and ask for the quarterback to visit the Titans. The 89-year-old Adams said he will be upset if he doesn't land the former Indianapolis Colts star.

Cardinals president Michael Bidwill left immediately after Manning and Whisenhunt did. No one involved in the session spoke to reporters.

Larry Fitzgerald, one of the best receivers in the game and considered a prime reason why Manning might choose Arizona, arrived a few minutes ahead of Manning, then left after about three hours. He had a scheduled flight to Australia for a vacation later in the day.

General manager Rod Graves and most of the members of Whisenhunt's staff, including offensive coordinator Mike Miller, offensive line and assistant head coach Russ Grimm and defensive coordinator Ray Horton, also were there. WR Andre Roberts spent several hours there, as did Lisa Manning (no relation), the Cardinals' vice president for marketing.

Bidwill arrived about an hour and a half after Manning did.

"Get it done, Michael," a fan yelled. "Come on, buddy."

Among the earliest fans to arrive was 26-year-old Jarred Light, a Colts fan who moved to the Phoenix area several 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."

A couple of fans wore Broncos jerseys and were loudly booed when they were interviewed by television crews.

Manning, who turns 36 on March 24, reportedly wants to make a decision in the next few days. Time is of the essence for the Cardinals, who are scheduled to pay QB Kevin Kolb $7 million if he is on the roster Thursday.

Manning 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 QB Andrew Luck with the No. 1 pick in the draft.

Manning has reported good progress as he works to regenerate nerves in his neck and regain his throwing form.

In addition to Fitzgerald as bait to lure the quarterback, 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.

Manning is familiar with Whisenhunt from the coach's work as offensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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 minicamps and early-season practices.

A concern could be Arizona's inconsistent offensive line, which could lose OLT Levi Brown, who is expected to be released because he is due a big payday and wouldn't return unless he signed a new contract.

Less than a year ago, shortly after the lockout ended, Arizona traded CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round pick to Philadelphia for Kolb and then signed the quarterback to a big contract. But Kolb had trouble adjusting to the new offense and missed eight starts with injuries. Second-year pro John Skelton wound up starting half the games and had more success than Kolb did.

If Manning doesn't come to Arizona, the Cardinals will be faced with assuring Kolb that his services are still coveted, that the pursuit of the star was nothing personal.

 

©2012 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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