It has been 24 hours from hell for quarterbacks.
Cleo Lemon’s last stand with the CFL’s Argonauts ended with all the success of the Charge of the Light Brigade (just not as heroically), David Garrard got sacked from the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and, finally Wednesday, the Indianapolis Colts confirmed Peyton Manning isn’t healthy enough to play in this weekend’s season opener.
The first was a train wreck just looking for a time and place; the second was more surprising, and the third is the most alarming.
While nobody has been willing to say it, think it, or even speculate it, Manning’s career let alone this season now appears to be in jeopardy.
As for Lemon, it is necessary to first have a career for it to be in jeopardy, and he never established himself anywhere as a pro.
Cry not for Garrard. True, he was treated shabbily by the Jags who told him all preseason he’d be their starter, even had him attend morning team meetings Tuesday, trotted him out at a chamber of commerce luncheon — then told him he was cut. That’s just mean.
Jaguars legend Tony Boselli said on Twitter it was the wrong way to handle the decision. “Knew n the morning u were cutting him, y make him go 2 luncheon & introduce him. Disappointed,” Boselli wrote.
But Garrard will resurface. His 7.5 yards per pass last year was tied for ninth in the league and his agent has confirmed at least three teams have already contacted him. Carolina, Cincinnati, Miami, San Francisco 49ers and Washington all have quarterback issues.
The Colts, meanwhile, just have a quarterback with issues. Pain in the neck issues. Manning’s problems, which required surgery, were supposed to be healed by now. But instead his streak of 208 consecutive regular season starts will end.
And, while nobody around the Colts’ management will say so, the truth is that when it comes to nerve damage, nobody knows when, or even if, they will ever heal. Even if they do, there’s every possibility that Peyton can only be half the Manning he used to be.
That the Indianapolis Colts four-time NFL MVP quarterback is experiencing weakness in his throwing arm so far removed from a May 23 surgery suggests the nerve hasn’t healed. Dr. Neel Anand, director of Orthopedic Spine Surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, told the Indianapolis Star. “Depending on the extent of the injury, it could take six weeks, it could take two years. And there’s no guarantee it will come back.”
That’s not what the Colts have been saying. Through training camp the team has consistently maintained the possibility he could play this weekend. When that seemed doubtful, owner Bill Polian insisted Manning will be back. Sometime. Soon. But, then, some people believe the Toronto Maple Leafs will win the Stanley Cup in our time, too. And, there really is a tooth fairy.
“This is uncharted territory, but we do know that the nerve regeneration takes time and it just hasn’t healed yet. It will,” Polian told reporters this week.
But heal when? And, how well? Manning is 35. He has had part of a bulging disk removed. He has had two surgeries to alleviate pain from pinched nerves. Football players with one neck problem commonly develop other neck problems.
Age. Health. Time. All three beckon Peyton. All three may be whispering that it is time to go.
The longer Peyton is on the sideline, arms folded, wired for sound from the booth, the more the feeling persists that it might all be over.
If it is, it will be a long time before the Colts recover.
If it is, Manning already has his place among football’s immortals. He may not be a Johnny Unitas — and there may be an argument for Joe Montana — but other than that, he’s the next best thing the NFL has ever seen.
Tittle for tattle
The Dolphins and Patriots may be signing players not so much for how they play, but for what they know. Miami claimed Patriots’ tight end Will Yeatman. The Patriots responded by claiming linebacker A.J. Edds off waivers from the Dolphins. The teams play each other Monday night. When it comes to scooping the other team’s gameplan, this is turning into a conspiracy theorist’s delight ... Chargers punter Mike Scifres has agreed to a deal reportedly worth $19 million US with $8 million in guaranteed money ... Roy Williams managed to hold off Johnny Knox for the starting job at receiver opposite Devin Hester ... Fred Jackson will be the Bills’ No. 1 running back to open the season. Former first-round draft pick C.J. Spiller didn’t show enough to supplant him. Considering Buffalo’s ineffective offensive line it probably doesn’t matter who they hand the ball to because it’s not like they’re going anywhere.