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Why NO TEAM should commit to Peyton Manning until he completes a workout

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Safety is important, but the real concern for Peyton Manning is how well he can do this.

From the Indy Star:

Fans hear the words “neck fusion” and wonder why Peyton Manning is even considering playing again, fearful he’ll risk a career-ending injury — or worse — the next time he takes a hit.

But safety isn’t Manning’s issue, several spine specialists said. Arm strength is.

Manning’s surgically repaired neck will be able to take a hit just fine once the fusion is healed, with the bone actually stronger than others in his neck. Nerves are delicate, however, and only time will tell if they’ll recover enough for the 35-year-old four-time NFL MVP to be the quarterback he once was.

“His risk really is very low,” said Dr. Robert S. Bray Jr., who has worked with NHL star Sidney Crosby and whose DISC Sports & Spine Center provides medical services for the U.S. Olympic team.

“If I was a team, I’d ask, ‘Did (the fusion) heal? Do you have a CAT scan that showed it healed? Is the rest of neck in pretty good shape?”‘ Bray asked. “If those two answers are yes, then it gets down to, ‘OK, get out on the field and show me you can perform,’ because it will only get better from here with time.”

I think this sums up the issue nicely and also reiterates the risk teams are taking when they pursue Manning. The fused bones are not the problem, it’s whether or not the nerves will heal enough for Manning’s strength to return (and in a timely manner). And that’s something that no can predict. The safety part of this is definitely important but now I’m thinking we spent so much time wondering if he’d be paralyzed on the field we forgot to wonder about pure ability.

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Not only is there a question about whether the nerves will heal there’s also the pesky issue of this being a guy who hasn’t played in a year who’s 36 and whose numbers were declining (especially in the post-season) anyway. Like any amazing talent that is snatched away suddenly, Manning has become a bit mythological-which speaks to how good he was before that he can become the stuff of legend while still alive.

But as sentimental as this league is and as much as players and coaches tend to believe in the talent of elite players long after the reason to believe is gone, no team should be signing Manning until they see what he can do. That’s why I’m interested to see how this pans out. For example, will a team sign him just to nail him down but then include a health-related “out” in case he’s not well enough? I would assume that’s the best option but the NFL never ceases to surprise me.



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