Health of the Franchise: Colts QB Peyton Manning

The headline of this series is usually all-encompassing – “the franchise” refers to the entire team.  In this case, however, I should probably emphasize THE in “the franchise,” as we really are talking about THE franchise when we are talking about Peyton Manning’s health.

Lost amid Jim Irsay’s bizarre tweets “polling” fans on which veteran quarterback the Colts should sign, and the even more bizarre insinuation that he was in Hattiesburg, Mississippi (presumably seeking Brett Favre’s services), and now the sheer panic-inducing announcement that the Colts have signed former New York Giants and Tennessee Titans QB Kerry Collins, there was some potentially real information regarding the progress of Manning’s rehab.  As I was sifting through various reports, I thought I had discovered a nugget that nobody had picked up on, and that the key lay in the nerves in Manning’s shoulder.  The more I researched the situation, however, the more confused I  became.

We will delve into those reports and their inconsistencies after the jump.

First, the reports on which I focused:


  • May 25, Paul Kuharsky of ESPN, shortly after Manning’s surgery was announced: “Do you remember how several times during the season people wondered about Manning’s arm strength… muscles in the shoulder get their nerve supply, and consequently their power, from the nerve roots in the neck. If those nerve roots are being compromised in any way, it can impair function, even in a subtle fashion, in the upper extremity”
  • July 31, Kuharsky in a story about Manning’s new contract: “One source said Manning has been rehabbing diligently but getting his nerves to regenerate completely, as well as strengthening his neck, shoulder and arm, is a process that doesn’t always satisfy his lack of patience for healing.”
  • August 21, Bill Polian to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen: “Once the nerves regenerate properly, he’ll be ready.”
  • August 21, Mike Chappell, quoting team owner Jim Irsay: “This type of injury involves ‘the vertebrae and trying to regenerate the right triceps strength. Our doctors have told us nerves come back at different paces.’”


There was also a quote by Chris Mortensen on or about July 8 at the Manning Passing Academy where Mortensen indicated in his video report (no longer available) that Manning’s issue was regenerating the nerves in his shoulder.

 What’s troubling about these reports is that until this weekend, they were inconsistent with the purported surgery.  In fact, even the reports about what surgery Manning underwent aren’t consistent:


  • March 3, 2010 (first neck surgery), Paul Kuharsky: Manning “underwent a procedure to relieve pain in his neck caused by a pinched nerve.”
  • July 9, Chris Mortensen, in a story from Manning Passing Academy: Manning had neck surgery on “May 23 to correct a bulging disk,… and is rehabbing from his second neck-related surgery in 15 months.  The two procedures were not related, according to Manning. The March 2010 surgery eradicated a buildup of calcium in his neck. This year’s surgery corrected the disk problem.”
  • August 21, from news service: “He underwent neck surgery in May to repair a nerve.”  (In at least 5 other ESPN articles, the same text from the July 9 Mortensen article was used, but in this article, the information is changed.)
  • August 21, Mike Chappell: “May 23 surgery to repair a bulging disk”
  • August 21, in an Associated Press article: “Manning… underwent neck surgery in May to repair a nerve…”


Perhaps I’m splitting hairs  – I have definitely been known to do so in the past – but surgery “to correct a disc problem” seems different from surgery “to repair a nerve.”  And ESPN had been steadfast in its use of the first description for months, before subtly changing the language this past weekend.  So what was the nature of the neck surgeries Manning underwent?  And is that the key to understanding why he hasn’t been taken off the PUP list, or is it truly just to “save him from himself” and “keep him on a pitch count?”   More bluntly, will Peyton appear as long as “he’s not dead,” as former Colts’ Head Coach Tony Dungy said on Sunday Night Football (start at 2:20 mark and ignore all of Peter King’s rambling)?