The verdict, however, is in on Manning's toughness.
During training camp as a rookie fifth-round pick last year, Manning — a big-time playmaker at North Carolina State — was practically an invisible man. He spent more time in the bathroom than sleeping. His weight dipped to 219 pounds.
"It started somewhere around (the start of camp)," Manning said of a mystery ailment that only the coaching staff and roommate Dezman Moses knew about. "It wasn't that bad. I thought it was something minor. We thought it was a tummy ache, as a matter of fact, when I went to visit the training room. Obviously, it turned out to be a lot more than that."
For almost a month, Manning barely ate, barely drank, barely kept anything down and barely slept. There were times in practices and preseason games when he thought he might lose control of his bowels in the middle of a play. Finally, one late night before the third preseason game, he had enough.
"I was in so much pain and I was sleeping maybe an hour-and-a-half, two hours during camp," Manning said. "I spent most of my time in the bathroom — literally, in the bathroom. Things were coming out of my body but I hadn't eaten in days. I didn't have anything in my system but things were still coming out. I panicked. I got up out of the bed in the training room one day and just left. I told the people on security watch, ‘Look, I don't know the things I have to go through to notify people but I'm not staying around. I'm going to the hospital.
"I went to the hospital probably about 4 o'clock in the morning. The Packers sent trainers over there to check on me and make sure everything was well. I stayed there until about 7 that morning and came back here and practiced that day."
Finally, Manning was diagnosed with colitis, an inflammation of the large intestine.
In the first three preseason games, Manning recorded just five tackles. He offered zero excuses to reporters who wondered what had happened to the player who rang up 10 sacks and 25 tackles for losses during his two seasons as a starter for N.C. State.
"I was terrified because I didn't know what was happening," Manning said. "Young guy, I've been healthy all my life, minus the two surgeries that I've had, and nothing (wrong) internally. So, it was scary. I didn't know what was going on. On top of that, I'm in the NFL. Everyone says, ‘Not For Long.' I'm sitting here thinking, ‘This is my burden. I've made it here this far and I don't want to be out (unless) it's something big.' On top of that, in the back of my mind, once I realized I had the little bit of energy that I could get up to go out and practice, there's no excuse to miss a practice. To me, if I'm here — they drafted me, they wanted to see me play and I didn't have an excuse for not going out there. If I can walk, I can go out there."
Finally, the Packers got a glimpse of the player they acquired by relinquishing three draft picks. Given medicine, Manning immediately began to feel better. Manning recorded seven tackles in the finale and wound up making the final roster.
Manning didn't play a snap on defense during the regular season, and missed time with a concussion and shoulder injury. In five games, he had three tackles on special teams, then added two more in the playoffs.
"That was a big setback as it relates to not being able to really get settled early and losing that learning time," inside linebackers coach Winston Moss said last week. "Once you get into a season, it's tough. He started to settle down and, by the end of the year, he started to be very effective special teams-wise. Now, he's got that confidence back. He's had a great offseason. His blitz technique has been excellent. He really does flash when he's running to the ball. He has a lot of good qualities. He's still trying to put it all together and we're going to continue to give him opportunities to see where he's at. This offseason is big, this training camp is going to be huge, this preseason is going to be huge. That will give us a better assessment."
Manning's up to 235 pounds and hopes to be 240 by the start of training camp. Depending on Desmond Bishop's future, Manning might end up challenging for a starting job. More than anything, however, Manning just wants to show what he can do when at full strength with a full stomach, a full night of sleep and full confidence his body can do what he wants it to do.
"Oh, yeah, definitely. I think we will (see the real Manning)," he said. "Without a doubt, I'm going to go out there and compete. That's my job. That's what I was brought in to do. I'm going to go compete."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.