When he’s listing the things he’s thankful for at dinner on Thursday, it probably won’t take Peyton Manning long to mention the fact that he’s back in the NFL and playing at a high level.
Such a state of affairs was far from a sure thing at this time last year with Manning’s future uncertain after neck surgeries forced him to miss the entire football season. Now Manning is back to being in charge of an offense and playing at a level that will likely put him into MVP discussion when the end of the year rolls around. Broncos coach John Fox calls the way things have unfolded “freaking historical” in an interesting and comprehensive piece about Manning written by Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times.
Manning called his comeback the biggest physical and mental challenge of his career as progress happened slowly and in small increments during his rehab. The process left him with the knowledge that he’s not the same player he was as a younger man and it forced him to make changes to his game to account for those differences.
“What I’ve learned to do is compensate. That’s what athletes do. You learn to compensate with what you’ve got. I’ve come to accept the reality that I am 36 years old,” he said. “I’m not trying to be the player that I was when I was 28. I’m not. I don’t compare myself to that,” Manning said. “At our college camp [the Manning Passing Academy] this summer, these kids, they’ve got some arms. This kid from Georgia, Aaron Murray, he can throw it a mile. All these kids. Six years ago, I’d have said, ‘Hey, I’m going to out-throw all these guys.’ But now, these kids can throw it farther, and it has zero effect on my psyche. I’m 36 years old, I’m coming off a major injury, and my arm has a lot of miles on it. I can still get them in the end zone doing it a different way, dinking and dunking, taking my shots at certain times. So I’ve learned a lot about my body, and about my team.”
The whole article is worth a read to see how Manning’s arrival has impacted the entire Broncos organization. It was a big gamble that Denver made this offseason and one that has paid off handsomely for them thus far. It never would have worked if Manning wasn’t able to become a different quarterback while still remaining highly effective.
If things keep moving at this rate, it’ll be hard to argue with the freaking historical tag when all is said and done this season.