Peyton Manning is mad. He is very, very mad.
The five-time MVP has spent the last five weeks on the Denver Broncos sideline nursing a torn plantar fascia in his left foot. The last time fans saw him, he played the worst game of his professional career, posting a 0.0 passer rating in a 29-13 drubbing at home against the Kansas City Chiefs, wherein he was benched for 25-year-old Brock Osweiler mid-way through the third quarter. He has not dressed on gameday since, and has only practiced twice.
However, his injury is one that many NFL players, including several quarterbacks have played through. That has led many to speculate about why Manning has not put on a uniform in over a month, even as a backup.
Yesterday, NFL Network’s Ian Rappaport reported that Manning has not dressed for the Broncos because he, “Would not be happy being Brock Osweiler’s backup.” The report fanned flames of controversy on Twitter and the Broncos were quick to deny it.
The strongest denial, however, came from the man himself. Peyton Manning, in the rawest language he’s used on the record since coming to Denver, told reporters after the game that the report was “100 percent bull****. Number one, it is bull****, and number two, it is insulting.” Manning said. “The worst part about being hurt is that a lot of people seem to know everything about and speak for you, even when it’s somebody you don’t even know.”
Following the game, Manning spoke one-on-one with Denver Post columnist Mark Kiszla about his frustration and the chances he’ll get back on the field in the near future. “It’s miserable not being out there,” Manning told Kiszla. “You know how hard the guys work, and that was a heartbreaking loss. Win or lose, it’s hard not being out there, but when you lose, it stings even more.”
Earlier this month, Manning flew to Charlotte, NC to get a second opinion on his injured foot from acclaimed sports physician Robert Anderson. Anderson informed Manning that it will be impossible for him to be 100 percent again this season.
“The doc said you’ve got to get it to a point of being able to manage it,” Manning said. “So, you’ve got to get to a point where the injury doesn’t affect you, and it doesn’t affect other parts of your body. That’s my goal. Looking back on it, I probably played on it where it compromised me, and I know I don’t play as well as I’m used to when I’m not feeling as well as I’d like.”
Mile High Huddle reported weeks ago that Manning’s injury dates back to the Manning Passing Academy in August. That report was based on sources close to Manning, and his father Archie confirmed MHH’s report last week, telling a New Orleans news station, “It goes back five or six months.”
Manning has not been healthy for this entire season, and it’s showed. His 17 interceptions still lead the NFL, despite taking the last five weeks off. His 67.6 quarterback rating is the worst of his career. The question now is, after more than a month off, is he well enough to return to the field and play at something close to the level at which fans have grown accustomed to seeing him?
For his part, Manning told Kiszla he is willing to help the Broncos in any capacity that head coach Gary Kubiak deems fit.
“The idea now is not to go backwards,” Manning said. “The next thing is not to be thinking about it as you’re stepping and throwing. It’s to not be in pain as you’re stepping and throwing. It’s seeing if you can go through a whole week of practice. It probably feels best when you’re not on it. In order to be able to play, you’ve got to be able to stay on the field for a whole week of practice.” Manning may do just that this week.
During yesterday’s game, as the now Brock Osweiler led Broncos gave up a 14-point halftime lead and lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 34-27, calls for Manning’s return to the field were heard louder than ever before. Osweiler did not play well in Pittsburgh in the second half and editorials and op-eds across the land have called for the Manning’s return.
“The Broncos will only go as far as Peyton Manning takes them,” ESPN’s Skip Bayless said.
The question now is whether or not Manning will ever get that chance. It is a question only Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak can answer. Kubiak was surprisingly coy during his Monday afternoon press conference. “We’ll have a plan in place when we get to Wednesday,” Kubiak said. “Right now, my thoughts are with the team and corrections.”
According to sources close to the situation, the Broncos are undecided over who will start at quarterback against the Cincinnati Bengals next Monday night. Osweiler is dealing with a shoulder injury that could keep him from practice early in the week. So, this could finally shape up as the week Peyton Manning returns to the field to lead the Broncos. However, no concrete plan will be set until Kubiak has had the chance to meet with Manning.
In the meantime, fans and analysts are left to speculate over the future of the quarterback position for the Denver Broncos. Some will argue that Manning is finished, washed up, or too old to compete. That wouldn’t be the first time those words have been used to describe the 39-year-old future Hall of Famer, and if he could do it, it would not be the first time he’s proved them all wrong.
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