Peyton Watch: Governor gets involved in Manning recruitment
AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Titans coach Mike Munchak had a big smile on his face when he left the team headquarters Wednesday night after daylong meetings with Peyton Manning.
The quarterback waved to fans waiting for a glimpse of him and gave a thumbs' up.
Maybe signs that Tennessee's pitch to the four-time NFL MVP went well, though no deals were announced after Manning spent about eight hours with Titans executives on a plane and at the team's headquarters.
The next move is up to Manning.
Titans spokesman Robbie Bohren declined to comment. However, owner Bud Adams told Nashville station WSMV-TV late Wednesday night he thinks Manning was very pleased with what he saw from the Titans.
"He's going to make his mind up fairly soon, hopefully we'd be in the running," Adams said.
Manning walked out of the Titans' building with Munchak at 10:05 p.m. EDT where about 50 fans who had gathered along the fence greeted him by yelling "Peyton, Peyton." Manning acknowledged them with a wave before getting into Munchak's SUV and the two driving away through a back gate.
It was unclear if Manning was on the team plane that returned Wednesday night to the Raleigh-Durham airport, where the Titans had picked him up earlier. Manning's friend and Duke coach David Cutcliffe lives in the area. Cutcliffe was Manning's offensive coordinator at the University of Tennessee and the quarterback has worked out several times over the past six weeks at the Blue Devils' facilities.
Fans of Denver, Arizona, Miami and now Tennessee all are looking for clues on which team Manning will pick.
One sign Titans fans should possibly pay close attention to was a visit by the team doctor Burton Elrod to the facility during Manning's visit. Elrod arrived and spent 90 minutes inside before leaving.
Offensive line coach Bruce Matthews, a Hall of Fame lineman like Munchak, also was seen leaving the facility not long after Elrod.
The Titans did just what Adams said: The 89-year old Adams instructed team executives to spend the day with Manning.
Tennessee pulled out all the stops.
Munchak, general manager Ruston Webster and chief operating officer Mike Reinfeldt landed in North Carolina just before 1:30 p.m. EDT to pick Manning up.
The quarterback, wearing a Tennessee orange shirt, arrived at the Raleigh-Durham airport riding in the backseat of black Escalade about 20 minutes later, boarded the plane and the group headed back to the Volunteer state.
The owner got plenty of help from fans of Manning and the Titans, flocking to the street in front of the team complex throughout the afternoon. They broke out in cheers at times, while Rob Shuler of Nashville brought two friends with him. They drew up posters begging Manning to sign with Tennessee.
Cars and trucks slowed to watch, honking in response to a sign asking them to let Manning know how much he's wanted.
Even Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam called Manning during his visit, Adams told WSMV-TV.
A local radio station set up briefly and blared "Rocky Top" over speakers alongside TV reporters busy broadcasting live during afternoon newscasts, adding to the circus atmosphere.
Meanwhile, the Titans were going about their business.
Reinfeldt left around 6 p.m. EDT talking on a cell phone, followed shortly by dinner being brought in from a nearby Italian restaurant.
Fans came and went during the day. People stayed near the fence despite a storm that had lightning slicing the sky nearby followed by a rainbow. Then a shooting star was seen, prompting two fans to instantly make a wish that Manning sign with Tennessee.
Adams has said he will do whatever it takes to sign Manning in his chase for a championship. He sees the quarterback as the missing piece. The owner remained in Houston Tuesday, which why Reinfeldt joined Webster and Munchak for this trip.
The owner promoted Reinfeldt from general manager in January to senior executive vice president and COO to act as his point man with the team in Tennessee while he lives 650 miles away.
The Titans already have veteran Matt Hasselbeck with two years left on a deal signed last July, and drafted Jake Locker with the eighth pick overall in the 2011 draft.
When he hasn't been working out at Duke, the quarterback visited Denver and Arizona in person, while reportedly visiting with the Dolphins in Indianapolis on Monday night.
His friend and Duke coach declined to answer any questions about Manning earlier Wednesday following the Blue Devils spring practice. However, when asked how his players were handling the distraction with the new faces around, Cutcliffe laughed and said, "you found a way, didn't you" to get in a question about Manning.
He said having Manning at the team's facilities has not been a problem.
"That's always, for them (the Duke players), encouraging and fun. That's the honest truth," Cutcliffe said of Manning working out at Duke's facilities. "But they've done a great job of letting anybody that's in here work and do what they've got to do, and they work around them.
"I think it's always good to have examples and see the kind of work ethic it takes to succeed in football."
AP Sports Writer Joedy McCreary in Durham, N.C., contributed to this report.
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