ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- How, exactly, do you say goodbye?
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning will do it at 1 p.m. ET Monday in a jammed meeting room. Teammates past and present, coaches, team officials and employees are expected as Manning formally closes his Hall of Fame playing career.
Much like his games were circle-the-date events, Manning’s farewell figures to be a must-see affair. It will be attended by a collection of people so large that the Broncos asked for RSVP notifications from media to make sure the room could handle the crowd.
Throughout Sunday, Twitter was filled with well wishes and statements from current Broncos, former teammates and some of the game’s biggest names, past and present, who wanted to offer their 140-characters-or-fewer assessments of Manning’s career.
Team president/CEO Joe Ellis, executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway and coach Gary Kubiak are all expected to speak. And those who know Manning best say he will have given plenty of thought to his statement, perhaps anguished over it, in an effort not to leave out anyone important to him.
Whether the difficult topics of this past season come up -- including the Al-Jazeera America HGH report, which Manning has repeatedly called "garbage," or the recent resurfacing of a 1996 incident involving Manning and a trainer at the University of Tennessee -- remains to be seen. But overall, the tone is expected to be of gratitude and celebration for the Broncos and Manning.
Just four of his 18 NFL seasons were with the Broncos, but those four seasons included 50 regular-season wins, four division titles, two Super Bowl trips and a win in Super Bowl 50. Manning arrived in 2012 having missed the 2011 season after spinal-fusion surgery and powered the most successful four-year run in the franchise’s history.
As Elway said in a statement Sunday, “Peyton was a player that guys wanted to play with. That made us better as a team, and I’m thrilled that we were able to win a championship in his final year. Peyton won a lot of awards and set a lot of records, but to me, what he helped our team accomplish during the last four years is what stands out the most. I’m very thankful Peyton chose to play for the Denver Broncos and I congratulate him on his Hall of Fame career."
Ellis added, “The Denver Broncos are so proud to have called Peyton Manning our quarterback for the last four years, and we can’t thank him enough for his many contributions to our team and community. ... Our team, our organization and our community are all better because of Peyton Manning. He raised the performance of those around him and raised the level of excellence here at the Broncos."
Because Manning will make his announcement Monday, the same day that teams can at least negotiate with prospective free agents -- free agency opens at 4 p.m. ET Wednesday -- there is an element of what-happens-next for the Broncos.
The Broncos have worked diligently to construct a deal for Brock Osweiler, who has spent all four of his seasons in the NFL as Manning’s backup for the Broncos. Osweiler will officially know Monday what his value would be on the open market, but the Broncos have made it clear they’re willing to pay Osweiler money befitting a starter for the defending Super Bowl champions.
And barring a can’t-resist contractual bombshell from a team looking to make a splash in free agency, the Broncos have expressed optimism in their ability to close a deal with their quarterback of the future.
But first, Manning takes center stage for the Broncos with the football world watching.
“Greatest all time, to me, greatest all time," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. “I got to play with the greatest of all time."