Eleven Pro Bowl selections. Four MVP awards. Two Super Bowl appearances plus one Super Bowl victory (and a Super Bowl MVP award). 399 touchdown passes. I could go on, but you get the idea – Peyton Manning’s statistical success in the NFL has been staggering.
However, the stats from above are being overshadowed by a new set of more intriguing numbers – Four neck surgeries, One entire season missed.
The Older Manning Brother sat back and watched Eli carry his New York Giants team to a Super Bowl victory over one of Peyton’s biggest rivals, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. This has to add to his motivation for returning to top form in his first season with the Denver Broncos.
Continuing with their Under Pressure series, NFL.com’s Around The League blog identified Manning as the player under the most pressure on the Broncos roster. NFL.com’s Dan Hanzus had this to say:
But make no mistake: It’s Manning himself who faces the most pressure here. He’s now 36 years old. He’s coming of multiple neck surgeries and hasn’t taken a meaningful snap since January 2011. Manning should be given time to re-adjust to this type of stage, but he won’t get that. The $96 million contract he signed in March means there’s no dipping his toe in the wading pool. Into the deep end he goes, and his ability to swim will determine the fate of his new team.
Can Manning stay healthy and put up the 35-touchdown, 4,000-yard season we came to expect for 13 seasons in Indianapolis? It’s a mighty challenge — and the pressure is enormous — but don’t expect No. 18 to shrink from any of it.
The only athlete I’ve seen return to his profession after multiple neck injuries and surgeries was Stone Cold Steve Austin after he was viciously dropped on his head during one of his matches. Austin underwent a spinal fusion surgery similar to what Manning has had to endure. He was able to return to the ring, but he was a shell of his former self. He was forced to work a reduced schedule and eventually went on to retire early.
Obviously, the two situations aren’t all that equal for a comparison, but the tasks both men faced coming off their respective injuries were similar. Stone Cold was not able to return to his pre-injury form. Let’s hope Peyton’s return to the game goes a bit smoother.