Routinely, I compare the modern NFL players to gladiators. To make more sense of this comparison, here’s Webster’s Online Dictionary’s extended definition of a gladiator: “A Gladiator was a professional fighter in ancient Rome who fought their peers, wild animals and condemned criminals, sometimes to the death, for the entertainment of spectators… At their peak in the 1st century BC to 2nd century AD successful gladiators, much like chariot racers, had the status of popular heroes in Rome and were depicted on merchandise and discussed in periodicals.”
While the NFL athletes don’t fight to the death, it’s still a fight nonetheless. NFL athletes do battle their peers, several beastly players, and a few criminals. The NFL game is a spectator sport (when not locked out) in 32 stadiums across America. I’m also sure that you own or know someone who owns merchandise that depicts the image or namesake of these athletes. It’s also worth noting that ticket scalpers were a part of the gladiator games. What’s more, music would be played at points of the fights that went along with the atmosphere at the time.
Peyton Manning is a veteran and deserving of being called a modern day gladiator. But every gladiator has their final match. It’s ironic that Manning has been surrounded with questions about whether he’s at the end of his career and health issues. The injury in question is extremely serious, as it pertains to the neck region. It’s ironic that while Peyton’s neck could at some point mean the death of his NFL career, that’s exactly the region gladiators focused on to end their opponents career in the arenas by acting out the ritual, after victory of having their falling adversary drop to one knee and “while holding the helmet or head of his opponent, plunged his sword into his neck”.
As I keep with the comparison of death of a gladiator’s life with the death of a NFL player’s career, age comes to mind next. When speaking of a gladiator’s life Webster’s goes on to say, ”Gladiators rarely lived past age 30 unless they were particularly outstanding and accomplished victors.” The same can be said about NFL quarterbacks age at retirement. But instead of 30, I would say 35. Only a select few have continued to play football at a high level after that age and Peyton Manning is at that threshold.
While Manning is truly a gladiator at heart, so are the opponents he’ll face for 16 regular season games this season. They have a killer mentality. The defensive ends and outside linebackers won’t stand down because of Manning’s stature. They’ll come at him with 100% brute force. Their well being and success hinges on the failure and defeat of the opposing gladiator. Let’s look at Manning’s 16 battles for 2011 regular season.
- 9/11 vs. Mario Williams – Williams was drafted over a quarterback in 2006 for the sole purpose of destroying Peyton Manning.
- 9/18 vs Phil Taylor – It’s every rookie’s dream to sack Peyton. What happens when a hungry, 335 pound rookie plants Manning?
- 9/25 vs. James Harrison - He’s one of the animals that will fight in the arena. A caged dog that gets out on Sundays, to feast on quarterbacks.
- 10/3 vs. Da’Quan Bowers - An extremely talented gladiator, that feels slighted. He’ll have a point to prove and defeating Manning may be it.
- 10/9 vs. Tamba Hali - A destroyer that won’t show mercy against his adversary.
- 10/16 vs. Carlos Dunlap - A young gladiator that wants to continue growing his name in the arena.
- 10/23 vs. Cameron Jordan – Another rookie that will look to make his name on the battlefield.
- 10/30 vs. Derrick Morgan – Morgan didn’t get to do battle last year. He’ll be eager in 2011.
- 11/6 vs. John Abraham – Another legendary gladiator who always prepares for battle when he puts on his helmet and battle garments.
- 11/13 vs. Aaron Kampman - Injury concerns has set this warrior back but he’ll be ready for the showdown.
- 11/27 vs. Charles Johnson - If he comes back to Carolina, Johnson will be ready to do battle with Manning after the previous 10 warriors beat him down.
- 12/4 vs. Vince Wilfork - Another big man in the middle that can call damage if he gets the opportunity to land with his weight on Peyton.
- 12/11 vs. Ravens D - There’s just too many gladiators on this defense that will all be eager for combat.
- 12/18 vs. Derrick Morgan – Another battle with the second year guy.
- 12/22 vs. Mario Williams - On short rest he gets a visit from an old friend.
- 1/1 vs. Aaron Kampman - The second battle of the season.
Manning is one of the best to ever do battle but I don’t know if he can sustain another season with these gladiators coming after him. With only six playoff spots to compete over, is it farfetched to think that some of these AFC teams may look to take him out? The AFC South without a Peyton Manning-led Colts team opens the whole division up for anyone’s playoff spot. It may sound coldblooded but don’t be naive enough to believe that these thoughts don’t cross defensive players’ mind.
Peyton Manning will go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time. He doesn’t have anything left to prove. Maybe he should walk away while he still can? In the movies, we always see the injured hero always overcome adversity to defeat the healthy opponent. But in history, when an injured gladiator stepped in the venue for battle, the healthy warrior met him with his demise, mostly at the source of his weakest attack point. Gladiators use to add fat, in belief that he would help them take punishing blows. Maybe Peyton just needs to add weight to his neck region…he’s from the south, I’m sure he has the recipe for fat back.
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Jayson Braddock is an NFL Scout / NFL Writer & On-Air Personality. Jayson is also a football insider for the Dylan Gwinn show on 790 AM in Houston, TX - Listeners NOT in the Houston metropolitan area can hear Jayson on iheart radio or sports790.com. You may email Jayson directly @ firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @JaysonBraddock