INDIANAPOLIS — According to a report by ESPN's Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter, quarterback Peyton Manning has been cleared by two independent doctors to resume his NFL career. If this is true, it ends a year of uncertainty about Manning's future after he lost the entire 2011 season to neck and nerve issues. One of the physicians, Dr. Robert Watkins, performed the most recent cervical fusion surgery on Manning's neck. The other physician, Dr. Hank Feuer, is the Indianapolis Colts' neurosurgeon.
According to the ESPN report, Dr. Feuer recently told Manning that his rehabilitation had gone so well, "If you were my own son, I'd tell [you] to go play."
Dr. Watkins was a bit more cautious, telling Manning that he would be able to play football again as soon as this Sunday if the nerve regeneration process in Manning's right arm had gone well enough. But as far as his neck is concerned, according to the report, Watkins believes Manning ready to go.
Manning had recently expressed optimism about his future, saying he had no plans to retire, and continued to work hard on the rehab process with no particular timetable in mind.
Manning hasn't commented on the news himself yet (and might not, given his reluctance to talk about himself during Super Bowl week), but these reports from Schefter and Mortensen are extremely encouraging. Recently, comments from Rob Lowe and Peyton's brother Eli had cast doubts on his ability to play football again.
UPDATE: After 1 a.m. ET Friday, Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted that Manning was not in shape to play football. "Peyton has not passed our physical nor has he been cleared to play for The Indianapolis Colts. Team statement coming on Friday."