It’s a reality that has always been there. A player’s career can end on a moment’s notice… an awkward hit, an unexpected release from the team, an off-the-field accident. But for years it’s been pounded into us how durable Peyton Manning is, how the only meaningful snap he’s ever missed was in 2001 when Miami defensive end Lorenzo Bromell broke his jaw and he left the game for ONE play, how he would play perhaps until he turned 40. And suddenly… nothing.
It started innocently enough with a rather nonchalant announcement that Manning had had neck surgery in May 2011, but that he was expected back in time to participate in training camp. He signed a record contract in late July, and was cleared to practice a little time later. Only a few days afterward, though, fans started to hear that Manning required yet another surgery and to get their Kerry Collins jerseys ready.
Cut to 2 months later, a reportedly “serious” scene in the Colts’ locker room, where Manning is letting people know that he is still experiencing the same nerve regeneration issues he faced before the most recent surgery. He hadn’t counted himself healthy enough to take the field 2 months ago, and it doesn’t sound like he considers himself healthy enough yet (let alone what the doctors are saying).
And so fans are faced with an increasing likelihood that Manning may never take the field again. Greg Cowan wrote about it after the 3rd surgery was announced, and the truth is that it was an issue in early spring when Manning first experienced these symptoms. Additionally, the fact is that this was a possibility in every single one of the snaps he took over a 13-year Hall of Fame career. It’s just a shame that for such a tremendous player that he faces the possibility of not making this choice himself.
The reality is, the choice was never his.