Could be career-ender
It's going to be a long road back for Peyton Manning, and although I wouldn't bet against him returning, I wouldn't be shocked if this procedure ultimately caused him to call it a career.
He's not going to be like Brett Favre, who did the retirement rumba for so long. Manning's standards are too high; he won't accept being two-thirds the player he once was.
Fighter pilots are permanently grounded by this type of surgery, because the risk is too high of serious injuries from whiplash-type events if they eject from their planes. Just imagine how it would be for a quarterback.
Manning will think long and hard about whether to come back, and he won't do so unless he can play like the Peyton Manning we've come to know.
He can regain throne
If Peyton Manning's nerves regenerate as they were and are supposed to be, there is no reason he can't reclaim his throne as king of quarterbacks.
Even though he's 35, there is little reason to doubt the four-time MVP still has the ability to excel. The Colts believed it so much, they made a potential $90 million investment in him not long ago.
Just last season, Manning passed for a career-high 4,700 yards despite not having many of his favorite receiving targets. But there is no guarantee Manning's nerves will respond. The hope is that alleviating pressure on his herniated disc will make the nerves work again. Nerve injuries can be tricky though. This isn't like coming back from a knee injury or a shoulder sprain. Some of this is out of Manning's control.
Feels like end is near
The Peyton Manning that we have been accustomed to seeing the past dozen years is no more. It hearkens to Dan Marino trying to come back from his ruptured Achilles' tendon in 1994. He had an extremely productive season, but he was a different player. The nimble-footed command of the pocket he had always owned had been compromised.
His exceptional talent kept some key numbers in rarefied air, but it was obvious he was sliding down from his Everest peak. With Manning, the situation is much more serious. Neck fusion surgery legitimately makes any blind-side hit a potential career-ender, if not something that may drastically affect his quality of life for the rest of his days. It feels like Peyton is a short-timer with regard to his NFL career.
May never be the same
What Peyton Manning is going through now will affect him the rest of his career. I do not think he will ever regain the form he had before his injury. The number of procedures he's had in the last year is scary and, if he is smart, potentially career-ending.
Do you take the chance that one hit to the neck or head area could cause even more serious damage? Yes, I know, football is a contact sport and any hit could end a career. But it seems that with Manning the odds of that one more hit impacting his quality of life are too great. And they just went up considerably.
Physically he might regain his skills, but will he be the same mentally, with that one more hit always in the back of his mind? Honestly, I hope we never have to find out.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun