Peyton Manning has been cleared to play in the 2014 NFL season after having passed a physical exam on his neck. The Denver Broncos MVP quarterback, 37, had multiple surgeries on his neck in 2011, including a spinal fusion while he was quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts that caused him to miss the entire 2011 season. Passing the physical exam clears the road for Manning to take a shot at another Super Bowl championship in 2014.
Having suffered through several seasons with arm weakness and neck pain caused by problems with his cervical spine, Manning had neck surgery in May of 2011. His recovery was hampered by the NFL lockout, which prevented him from using the Colts’ facilities to practice and workout. Although he sought to rehabilitate his arm by using the trainers and facilities for the Colorado Rockies baseball team, he was not able to recover his throwing motion and his arm was weak.
In July of that year, he signed a contract extension worth $90 million with the Colts. Although Manning had every intention of playing the 2011 season, continued problems with his spine caused him to undergo a spinal fusion on level one of his cervical spine – an operation that carried with it the possibility of his never returning to quarterback in the NFL. The September 8 surgery meant that the man who had never before missed a game of his NFL career had to sit out the entire 2011 season. After being released by the Colts in March of 2012, he signed on with the Denver Broncos two weeks later.
Manning signed a five-year, $96 million contract with the Broncos in 2012 that included a clause mandating the exam. Passing the medical exam guarantees him a salary of $20 million in 2014. Had the doctors discovered any new damage to or deterioration of his neck, the salary would have been voided. There was little doubt in the Broncos organization that Manning would pass the exam. He passed a post-season physical and was golfing at Pebble Beach three days later.
Before playing in 2013, Manning had to pass a similar exam. He received $5 million in advances of both his 2013 and 2014 salaries after restructuring his contract in May of last year in order to give the Broncos more room under the salary cap. Manning’s base salary this year is $15 million.
Manning’s surgically repaired neck seems to have given him little trouble last year. His stats include NFL records for yards thrown (5,477) and touchdown passes (55). Under his leadership, the Broncos’ high-powered offense set a new record for points scored in a season. He was named the NFL’s MVP for a record fifth time as well as leading the Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the Seattle Seahawks.
With the news that Manning has passed his spinal exam and is cleared to play in 2014, speculation that he may retire has been put to rest. Although only two teams have ever won the Super Bowl in the year following a loss in the Super Bowl, Manning’s return has Denver wondering if they might be the third.
By Jennifer Pfalz