Doctor OKs Manning to play, but Colts say hold your horses
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning indicated to ESPN this week that he planned to return to football.
February 3rd, 2012
07:59 AM ET

Doctor OKs Manning to play, but Colts say hold your horses

One of the NFL’s all-time elite quarterbacks is medically fit to resume playing after three neck surgeries and a season off, one of his surgeons says.

But the owner of Peyton Manning’s team pointed out in a tweet early Friday that the organization itself has yet to clear the 35-year-old, and NFL analysts said it’s still too soon to know whether he’ll have enough arm strength to compete.

The four-time NFL Most Valuable Player is “medically cleared to play professional football,” Dr. Robert Watkins Sr., Manning’s most recent surgeon, said in a statement Thursday night, according to NFL.com. Manning’s most recent surgery to relieve a pinched nerve - a single-level anterior fusion - came in September, sidelining him for the entire 2011 season, marking the first games he missed since his career began in 1998.

But Colts owner Jim Irsay, who has to decide by March 8 whether to pay Manning a $28 million bonus or release him, indicated early Friday what he’s been saying all week: The matter is far from settled.

“Peyton has not passed our physical nor has he been cleared to play for The Indianapolis Colts,” Irsay posted on Twitter early Friday.  “Team statement coming on Friday.”

At issue now is less about whether Manning is medically sound enough to play football, and more about whether nerve regeneration will be sufficient for Manning to throw the ball well, commentators on the NFL Network said Thursday.

“The nerve has been the issue for months, not the neck,” NFL Network reporter Jason La Canfora said. “I’ve talked to people in the Colts’ organization who said, ‘We’re not going to respond to the report, because we don’t see any news in it.’ … There are times where he has tingling, has the wrong sensations; he can’t grip the ball, throw the ball with velocity. There is no consistency there.”

Manning, who was cleared to start throwing the ball two months ago as part of his rehabilitation, indicated to ESPN this week that he planned to return to football and that he planned to talk to Irsay about whether he would stay with the Colts "at the appropriate time," sometime after Sunday's Super Bowl.

"I really feel good. I continue to make progress every day," he told ESPN's Trey Wingo on Tuesday. "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."

The Colts have more than just Manning's health and his scheduled $28 million bonus to consider. The team, which went 2-14 without him in 2011, has the No. 1 pick in April's NFL draft. Highly touted Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck is theirs if they want him, perhaps making the thought of releasing Manning, who will soon turn 36, a bit more palatable. And the Colts are already rebooting in other areas, having taken on a new general manager, head coach and offensive coordinator.

News about Manning's progress comes as the New York Giants and New England Patriots are preparing for the Super Bowl in the Colts' city of Indianapolis. Irsay said this week that he will talk with Manning about his future after the Super Bowl.

"I think it’s something that I would imagine would go into early March in terms of us having a conversation. It’s a serious medical thing. It’s a very complicated medical issue,” Irsay said, according to the Colts' website.

“I’ve said from the beginning, it’s a two-phase medical aspect,” he continued.  “Can he return to play at a really high level? (That’s) what his expectations are. That’s the only level he wants to be. Can he drill it (50 yards) in Foxborough in January when it’s 10 degrees outside? Is he going to be back to the highest level, the Hall-of-Fame level, he expects to play at? The second issue always has been the health and the risk of going back onto the field. They’re two separate issues. They’re complicated issues.”

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Filed under: Football • Indiana • Peyton Manning • Pro football • Sports
soundoff (48 Responses)
  1. Jeff Foran

    I think Manning should decide his own fate! If he thinks his body is up to the challenge , then let him play. He has lead the Colts to victory , time and time again. And if the Colts, do nnt want him- then trade him to a team that does. And watch him put that team on top.

    February 3, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Fenris

    This is the Irsay's' way of saying he's gone. It'd be crazy to pay him $28 million. As great a player as he is, c'mon, he doesn't play 11 defensive positions. The Colts know they have to spend money to fix the entire team. They were so utterly abysmal this year, I really wish Manning had been able to play – they still wouldn't have been any good. People are acting like he plays all 22 positions plus the kickers'.

    February 3, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. altango

    After having a fusion of his vertebrae bones I would say that Peyton's career is over. I don't think there has ever been a football player who has comeback from a fusion of their vertebrae bones.

    February 3, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  4. The Realist

    5 Bucks says if the Colts don't keep him, Jerry Jones will do everything in his power to grab him. Write that down...

    February 3, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fenris

      Hahaha, Jerry Jones probably will. And then after one year Peyton will retire and the HoF will list him as The great quarterback, Peyton Manning, of the Dallas Cowboys," forever and ever. Sweet payback for Johnny Unitas.

      February 3, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Portland tony

      I say Denver .......He could start and teach ole Tim how to really play QB. They both have the same work ethic and Tebow would be great if he learned how to pass?

      February 3, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  5. The Realist

    @Fenris
    No they wouldn't go unbeaten and they sure as hell wouldn't have gone 3 and out every time their offense had the ball. Football 101: If your offense fails to put more than 10 points on the board, you point the weight of the whole game on your defense. Put that in your pipe and smoke it...

    February 3, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Ellie Lightt

    Peyton to Miami or the Bucs

    February 3, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Joker

    @Fenris
    They've had problems on that team and Manning hid it b/c of his great play. He would get them the lead and the defense was built to have the lead. He also kept the defense rested by constantly moving the chains.

    February 3, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Dr Perry Fisher

    Ehis is bad medical advice,he should retire

    February 3, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  9. John Schwendler

    The Colts' owner just answered anyone's question as to whether he will pay out $28m on Mar 8th.

    February 3, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. KC FAN

    Come to KC... KC will welcome you with opn arms....

    February 3, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  11. AG

    Retire man, your health is more important. those young defensive linemen are after your "Azz"! GET YOUR RETIREMEN PAY FROM THE NFL!

    February 3, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Portland tony

    The colts need more than Manning. They are missing a good offensive interiior line and have holes in the defense. Even with Manning at 100% and 10 years younger, he would still need help. I don't think they will pick up that $25M option..They will go with drafted Luck and rebuild.

    February 3, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Nat

    The entire Colts response can be summed up in one sentence...."we do not want to pay him $28,000,000"

    I do not think in his contract it says he has to be at "Hall of Fame level" etc to get his bonus. It probably just states he has to be playing.

    February 3, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  14. titan2005

    Writings on the wall. Start looking for a new team Payton.

    February 3, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
  15. k green

    I hope peyton retires i wouldnt want to see him come back and take a chance on getting hurt to the point that a hard hit may paralyize him. i grew up watching his dad play i love to watch his brother play and i loved watching peton play i wouldnt wanna see him get hurt retire and enjoy wife and kids and dont worry about playing.

    February 3, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
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