Peyton Manning will not play forever. This we knew. Heck, the guy's basically playing with house money at this point, given the fact that most players in his position would have retired years ago due to injury. Even so, the end will arrive at some point for Manning ... and, pending the results of an offseason physical, could arrive sooner than anyone expected.
ESPN is reporting that sources "familiar with the star quarterback's mindset" have said that Manning will undergo a neck exam at the end of the season. The results of that exam will have a profound effect on the quarterback's future. According to ESPN, Manning will return for 2014, regardless of this postseason's result, if the neck exam indicates he's still healthy and able to take another season's worth of punishment.
If, however, the neck exam indicates potential problems, Manning will face a choice of whether to retire. He's a couple years removed from fusion surgery on his neck that forced him to miss the entire 2011 season.
Manning set NFL records for both passing yards and touchdowns this season in one of the most remarkable years in the game's history. He'd have every right from a player's perspective to walk away now, but obviously he'd like to go out with some more postseason honors. His boss, John Elway, set a pretty solid example: two Super Bowl trophies in his final two years.