NFL Analysis: What Does Manning's Surgery Mean for Colts?


With the news that Peyton Manning had neck surgery for the second consecutive year, everyone is understandably raising a lot of questions:

Did this injury occur during the year?

Both Manning and Jim Irsay say that it didn't.

This question arises primary out of a report from Stampede Blue last September. The report was later referenced in an article by Don Banks of Sports Illustrated.  Brad Wells stated:

Peyton Manning is hurt. We're not talking a little dinged up or a tad sore here. We're talking 'the team is concerned' type of hurt.

After that article was posted in week one, Manning went on to play 16 more games (including the playoffs).  He threw the ball for 548 times for 4492 yards and 31 touchdowns.  Moreover, in the next five weeks after the report, Manning posted a passer rating of 101.6, with 10 touchdowns, 2 INTs, and a YPA of 7.5.  If Manning was hurt (and it's entirely possible that he was), it certainly didn't show up on the field in any measurable way.

During the week six victory over Washington, the Colts lost Addai, Clark, and Collie to injury.  Over the next 6 weeks, Manning's numbers dropped.  He posted 11 TDs to 13 picks, a rating of 76.7 and a YPA of 6.4.

As the Colts stabilized, Manning's play improved again. Over the final five games of the season, Manning threw 10 TDs, 2 picks, had a rating of 102.4 and a YPA of 7.1, despite throwing to the likes of Blair White and Jacob Tamme.  Was he in pain? Only he knows.  Whatever his discomfort level and whatever the cause, it had no bearing on what was happening on the field.

Unless Manning's injury only affected him for a six week span, then got better, then got worse again after the season, there's no evidence from his play that he was seriously hurt.

Furthermore, when Manning had surgery in 2010 it was done in March.  That would have been the logical time to do it in 2011 as well. If this surgery was necessitated due to a serious injury sustained in week one, it seems unlikely that Manning would have waited until the middle of the lockout when contact and oversight by the club was complicated.  The logical time to have the procedure would have been in late February or early March.  The fact that he didn't do it then implies that it was not necessary then.

Additionally, if Manning was hurt during the regular season, it defies credulity that he would have not only waited for four months after the season to have surgery but also conducted offseason workouts on his own time.  The timeline just doesn't fit well with a week one injury.

Did Manning play the 2010 season in pain? Probably. He's a older quarterback.  Most older quarterbacks play with pain and frequently need procedures done during the offseason.  There doesn't appear to be any evidence that 2010 was any worse for Manning in that regard than for most players his age.  The relevance of the September report to the way the season played out is questionable at best, and the connection to the surgery is tenuous.

In summary, Manning and Irsay's statements, Manning's play in 2010, and the timing of the surgery argue strongly that this was not necessitated by a specific regular season injury.

If it didn't occur during the year, when did it happen?

We don't know.

Manning said it was "recent".  As reported by Matt Grecco, Irsay said it was unrelated to his previous procedure, and built up over time but just started to cause him discomfort

The real question is if Manning injured or aggravated himself during the private workouts.  The question that cannot be answer now is if this is the first serious injury caused by the lockout.  Manning has been training and working out away from the team facilities and doctors, and while I assume he has access to and has employed world class training staff, it is certainly disturbing to hear that player who has been training independently of the team has surgery, however minor.

When and how does Jim Irsay know about the injury?

To me, this is the biggest question.  Irsay claimed to have gotten 'a special waiver' and that the team doctor was involved in the decision.  Manning complained that

"The unfortunate thing is I have had to do all of this on my own," Manning said. "I've been able to have no help from the Colts because of the lockout."

It remains unclear then how much input the team had into the surgery.  The team doctor was 'involved', but Manning has had to "do all of it on [his] own".  Manning must have called the team to inform them, and if so, how did the team go about getting permission to talk to him?

The lockout is supposed to prevent teams and players from having contact.  Apparently, those rules do not apply to the Colts in the case of Peyton Manning.  We don't know how or when the Colts became aware of his situation, how much input they had, or how much they are able to monitor his recovery.

This speaks to the hypocrisy inherent in the lockout itself.  The owners are content to kick around the small fish in order to pressure them into submission, but when it comes to the face of the NFL, special dispensation and considerations are given.  If Jacob Tamme had gotten hurt during these recent workouts, would Jim Irsay have had permission for the team doctor to consult on the surgery?  

I'm not implying that Manning is the only player in the NFL who would have gotten this treatment.  I imagine most of the stars would have been allowed to have team doctors involved. That's just the problem. The NFL is applying their own rules inconsistently in favor of the biggest stars and investments while trying to crush the lesser players into submission.  The NFL has a LONG history of this going back to the "Quarterback Club" of the 1990s.

How long until Manning recovers?

The prognosis is 8-10 weeks, which would coincide perfectly with the theoretical start of training camp. Of course when Manning had his 2008 knee surgery, a post-op infection stretched that time out through the end of camp and the pre-season.  Peyton indicated that he thought he'd be lifting weights in a couple of weeks.  Given the fact that the odds of camp starting on time are long at best, there's no reason to worry.  This sounds like a less complicated procedure than what Manning endured last season.

Is there reason to worry?

Not really.  Again, older quarterbacks have surgeries. It happens every year to most every older player.  There's no evidence that Manning's surgery in 2010 affected him during the regular season, and it's likely this one won't either.  However, Manning is getting older, and eventually the physical aspect of his game will show wear and tear.  This is part of the natural aging process of a player.  Manning's surgery is a symptom of his age.  Whether it's a concern specifically or not is irrelevant.  He's 35 years old, and that is the concern.  He still should have five years of productive football left, but those years are going to be paid for by offseason procedures. 


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