Generally speaking, if you want the real skinny on the Indianapolis Colts, the best place to go these days is straight to the proverbial horse's mouth — via Twitter, that is. Team owner Jim Irsay has one of the best and most interesting Twitter accounts out there, and he provided a bounty of information on the franchise's most important player, one Peyton Manning.
As we all know now, Manning will miss the first regular-season game of his NFL career when the Colts face the Houston Texans this Sunday due to a neck injury that has been slow to heal. Beyond that, Irsay has been specifically proactive about Manning's progress.
First, Irsay refuted a recent radio report that Manning had already had a third procedure on his neck:
Peyton didn't have a medical procedure last sunday, we'll have more info 2 add clarity 2 situation soon
And here was the clarity, soon after:
NFL Season opens 2nite!We had a good practice yesterday and r guys r fired up 4 the season.#18's out for awhile, but compete,we will/BELIEVE
And there you have it. Not a real surprise when you're dealing with nerve regeneration in the neck — I mean, imagine how you would feel if you were wrestling with a concept like that regarding your own body. Even ex-coaches and former players, usually among the most callous when it comes to the toughness of current players, are lining up in Peyton Manning's corner and advising him that the best thing to do might be to hang it up for the year.
Former Baltimore Ravens head coach and current NFL analyst Brian Billick had this to say about the Manning situation Thursday morning on ESPN radio:
"I'm not sure I don't just sit him for the whole year. I mean, you're talking about the neck, and all the repercussions in terms of the back, and the hamstrings — I mean, this goes up and down the entire core of your ability to perform. And if you press it before you're ready — let's say they start out a little rough. At some point, I'm not sure Peyton Manning and the organization doesn't just lay it out the entire year … because he has a lot of years left.
Pretty much matches up with what I heard from Hall of Fame defender and Fox Sports analyst Howie Long in a Wednesday interview:
"When the lights go out at night, and an athlete's staring at the ceiling, one thing that is probably their biggest fear is the neck. For a number of reasons, and some of them are obvious. When you start to get into multiple neck procedures, you're getting into nerve damage, and you're getting into the spinal column. It's a scary proposition, and it's certainly not a good thing … I think it's important that Peyton does what's best for Peyton."
More and more, it seems that what might be best for Peyton is a long, slow recovery that sets him up better for a future in football … and more importantly, a better life down the road.