There’s been a lot of talk about Peyton Manning since the topic was last addressed here. Despite all the talk, “reports,” and annoying non-stories caused by Colts owner Jim Irsay’s time on Twitter, there isn’t much to add. I’ll try and summarize some of it. There is, however, a number of misconceptions and false info out there, and I’ll try and clear some of that up as well.
- It is now certain that Manning will be a free agent soon. I wouldn’t expect this to last until the March 8th deadline. Manning and the Colts are not negotiating any type of re-worked contract, and Irsay is making the eventual outcome more and more obvious each time her tweets on the subject.
- Manning had a 4th neck surgery that had never been reported to the media. It was a follow up procedure that cleaned up some of the new bone growth from when the vertebrae that were fused together. This was an extremely minor procedure and does not matter at all in terms of his ability to play football in 2012. Basically, it’s a non-story.
- The bones in Manning’s neck are fully healed, and are in no way a risk for re-injury. In fact, t’s actually stronger than it was before the operation, in terms of bone thickness, bone density, and because of the metal supports that are in place. Anyone who reports that Manning is “one hit away from paralysis” or any such nonsense is either extremely misinformed, or intentionally neglecting the truth in an effort to make a point.
- As a follow up to #3, Manning has been cleared for full contact, not that NFL teams ever let their QBs take hit in practice. This designation of being “cleared for full contact” is not position specific. ESPN’s Mark Schlereth says he played with quite a large number of players, including offensive lineman and linebackers, who had the same procedure as Manning and then continued to play for multiple years. Manning is fully healed and completely able to take a hit from a blitzing linebacker.
- Manning’s health problems at this point have absolutely nothing to do with the bone fusion procedure that everyone seems to be focusing on. Instead, the problem is from a previous surgery. Manning had a bulging disc that was putting pressure on nerve and robbing him of some of his arm strength. In the first 2 surgeries he had, some of the disc was cut away to release some of the pressure on the nerve. In the 2nd of these surgeries, the nerve was apparently damaged. Manning is now waiting for the nerve to finish regenerating.
- At this stage in his recovery, Manning’s arm is only about 60-70% as strong as it once was. This is hugely significant, because Manning never had a huge arm to begin with. If the season started today, Manning would be incapable of playing QB in the NFL. Luckily for Manning, the season doesn’t start today. He has 6 more months before his arm must be ready.
- 6 months is a long time, and enough for the nerve to regenerate. There have been some people who’ve pointed out that since it’s been just over 6 months since the nerve was damaged and that there’s been limited progress, and claimed that Manning might never play again. While this seems logical, it is incorrect. Because of surgery’s #3 and #4, Manning has been unable to actively work on the exercises and other therapy that will encourage the nerve to regenerate. It was only in the last few weeks that Peyton has been able to fully work on getting the nerve to heal.
- Manning’s lack of arm strength isn’t insignificant. Manning has never had an elite arm. If his arm only heals to being about 80% of what it once was, then it will greatly inhibit his ability to put up the monster numbers he once did.
- Seattle is one of many teams that has been linked to Manning. Miami, Arizona, Washington, Houston and San Francisco are the others. It is impossible to predict where he will land at this point. ESPN predictably says he a “lock” to land in one of the 2 east coast teams, even though neither has a decent roster that Manning will want to join.
I want to make it clear that nothing is set. Peyton and the rest of us have every reason to believe that his arm strength will continue to return, but that doesn’t mean that it’ll return enough for him to be effective. It also doesn’t mean that he’ll end up in Seattle even if his arm does improve. While I think that the Seahawks will be an attractive option, its impossible to predict what he will decide.
This is purely speculation on my part, by I don’t think Manning signs with a team right away. Team’s are going to want to wait until Manning’s arm strength has returned before giving him $20-30 million in guaranteed money. I would be surprised if this drags out until May or June. By then, Matt Flynn and other Free Agents will have signed, and team’s will have drafted QBs, thus limiting the market for Manning. In my opinion, this benefits teams that already have QBs, like Seattle and Arizona.