The will-he or won’t-he conversation surrounding Peyton Manning and the Colts has dominated the headlines during Super Bowl week. But the bottom line is that until Manning proves he can throw a football at the level required for an NFL quarterback, it’s all idle talk.
Manning’s surgeon, Dr. Robert Watkins Sr., issued a statement Thursday night declaring the four-time NFL MVP “medically cleared to play professional football,” although NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi suggested any clearance holds little meaning if Manning can’t actually play.
“Having been in the NFL for more than 20 years, I know this: Being cleared to resume your career and being actually able to play are two entirely different components,” Lombardi told “Super Bowl Live.”
Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted early Friday morning: “Peyton has not passed our physical nor has he been cleared to play for The Indianapolis Colts. Team statement coming on Friday.”
Irsay has maintained this week that his decision on Manning — who’s owed a $28 million bonus March 8 — is based first on the QB’s medical condition. To that end, Irsay has said there’s still much uncertainty in the equation.
Irsay is referring to the question that remains unanswered: Will Manning’s arm strength return?
“The nerve has been the issue for months, not the neck,” NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora said. “I’ve talked to people in the Colts’ organization who said, ‘We’re not going to respond to the report, because we don’t see any news in it.’ … There are times where he has tingling, has the wrong sensations, he can’t grip the ball, throw the ball with velocity. There is no consistency there.”
Manning was cleared to resume throwing before the end of the regular season in the next phase of his rehabilitation following three neck procedures. He proclaimed to reporters Wednesday that his recovery process was on schedule and he had no intentions of retiring. Little question exists that the ultra-competitive Manning is motivated to not let the injury end his career.
Simply put, no one can put a timetable on when the nerves in Manning’s arm will fully regenerate. As Irsay pointed out Wednesday on NFL Network, the process is filled with uncertainty because no NFL quarterback has ever suffered this type of injury.
While the clock is ticking on the Colts and their decision on Manning’s future, it continues to hold true that no one knows with any certainty that he will play again.