Perhaps to try to short-circuit the rampant speculation about his future, Peyton Manning went on record Tuesday to say he is not contemplating retirement and that his surgically-repaired neck is recovering on schedule.
Manning missed the entire 2011 season and has had three neck surgeries in the last 19 months. Complicating his future is the fact that the Indianapolis Colts must either pay him a $28 million bonus due on Mar. 8 or release him.
Manning, himself, has never been the best source for Manning information. Right up until the start of training camp last summer, he insisted he was going to be ready to start the season, following surgery in May to repair a bulging disc. That turned out to be wishful thinking and so, too, may be his optimistic statements Tuesday.
By Sept. 8, he was back under the knife, this time to have a cervical fusion in the area of the bulging disc. Since then, he has been undergoing therapy and rehab.
According to Yahoo.com Sports, the surgery has healed but the nerves in his throwing arm don’t appear to be recovering as expected. Citing two sources “with knowledge of Manning’s rehabilitation,” Yahoo.com said Manning “hasn’t shown improvement in velocity on his passes, and the two sources fear he likely never will again.”
Tuesday, however, Manning himself told a different story.
“I really feel good,” he said in an interview with ESPN TV. “I continue to make progress every day. Everything that the doctors have told me has been on point, which is encouraging to me. I just had a great day today with rehab, just got back from the facility, and that’s what we continue to do. Just keep trying to get better. So far I have. That’s the plan from here on out.
Emerging from all this conflicting information is the growing sense that the Colts are going to move on without Manning. He is not going to be able to demonstrate to owner Jim Irsay that he is 100% healed in time for Irsay to make a confident decision on Manning’s gargantuan bonus payment.
The indications are that Manning will need to continue to work on his throwing until mid-summer. Then, and only then, will there be a determination regarding the 2012 season. By then, the Colts will have moved on and Manning will be a free agent. If the velocity and the arm strength is back, then there’s little doubt there will be a lineup of teams looking to sign him.
Yahoo.com consulted a physician who, though he hasn’t treated Manning, is familiar with the types of spinal surgeries Manning has undergone.
“If you’re getting consistent improvement, then that’s OK,” said the doctor. “Even if it’s going from lifting 10 pounds to 15 pounds to 20 pounds over a stretch of weeks, that’s fine. If you hit a plateau, that’s a problem but I also tell patients who have been through it that it can take up to a year to find out exactly how much strength you’re going to get back.
“Right now, Peyton is at about six months. He should have a much better idea by July or August just how far he’s going to get, but even then, that’s only a part of it. You can tell about 80% of how the nerves and the muscles are healing by rehab. What you really have to see is how his arm holds up when he starts to throw. Does he have the same velocity on the 15-yard out? Can he throw the 60-yard pass? Can he throw for 30 minutes before his arm gets tired? Can he throw for an hour? It’s a very complicated process.”
Irsay, who must answer that $28 million question, declined to talk about Manning’s health on Monday before a news conference, but did say, “There are no cases of quarterbacks going through this.”
In his interview Tuesday, Manning left the impression he and Irsay will meet after the Super Bowl is over and discuss the situation.
“I think some decisions will be made after that,” said Manning. “But until then I’m just continuing to rehab, work hard, and to enjoy this week because it really is a special week for the city and certainly for my family.”
“Jim and I are in constant communication, and after this week is over, we’ll do it, and we’ll make a good plan from there. Either way, it’s going to be good. I’m at peace, and it’ll be a positive thing, I can assure you.”