There’s no doubt that at age 39, Denver Broncos quarterback and future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning is old to be in the NFL. He has had four neck surgeries, has no feeling in his fingertips and as an upcoming story from ESPN the Magazine will tell, can barely seem to function at all.
The story offers a deep and disturbing look into just how banged up Manning is, as he can barely take his cleats and equipment off.
An excerpt offers more:
IT TAKES PEYTON Manning 15 minutes to shed his suit of armor after a game.
He begins with his cleats, which he can barely untie without assistance. A Broncos equipment staffer helps peel them off his feet while he does a radio interview, because after nearly 25 years of football dating back to high school, it’s a relief to not have to bend over that far. Next come his shoulder pads, which, when yanked over his head, generate a groan that is a mixture of suffering and sweet relief. Manning’s pale arms and torso are covered in fresh scrapes and old bruises, some the color of strawberries, others a shade of eggplant.
His socks come off after several violent tugs, revealing toes that are twisted and bent into obtuse angles. When he removes a thick blue DonJoy knee brace from his stiff left leg, he twice pauses to grimace and gather himself before stripping it off and handing it to a staffer for safekeeping. As he slices away at the thick layers of athletic tape supporting his ankles, he looks like a surgeon operating on his own leg without anesthesia.
When he finishes, he stands, joints creaking, loose strips of tape and blades of grass still stuck to his skin. He has just completed a comeback win over the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 2, and a flood of text messages keeps pinging his phone, which has a picture of his 4-year-old twins, Marshall and Mosley, as his background. He can’t resist reading a few and smirking with satisfaction. He drapes a towel over his shoulders, but the crooked pink scar on the back of his neck is still visible, evidence of the four neck surgeries he’s had to repair a pinched nerve and herniated disks and to fuse his vertebrae. Because of the victory — the 181st of his career — Manning smiles as he limps gingerly in the direction of the showers. If this is what it feels like on a good night, only two games into his 18th year, try to imagine the bad ones.”
Thus comes the question: WHY IS MANNING EVEN PLAYING ANYMORE???? Look, I get that he can still put up great numbers despite his injuries, but Manning needs to think about his long-term health at this point. He is the all-time leader in touchdown passes and is 1,716 yards away from tying Brett Favre for the top spot for most career passing yards. Chances are that this record will be broken this season.
But the long and short of it is that Manning’s body, at least on the football field, is running on borrowed time. At this rate, it will be a miracle if he can even move period in the near future. Hopefully, he wakes up and smells the coffee and realizes that chasing a Super Bowl just isn’t worth it at this point.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports