It was the best of times and the worst of times for Peyton Manning on Sunday, and it might mean an end to one of the greatest careers any player has ever had. First came the breaking of Brett Favre’s all-time passing yardage record, then came a nightmare. While watching soft toss after soft toss get intercepted, four in all, we were not aware of what we all came to know on Monday: Peyton Manning is injured.
A torn plantar fascia will keep him from this week’s game in Chicago, and it could keep him out for good. While never officially stated, it has been widely known this was likely to be Manning’s last season. This injury certainly seems to seal it. But will he be able to return to the field at all for the suddenly sliding but still 7-2 Denver Broncos? No definitive word has come from the Broncos, paying ultimate respect to the legend, but it is difficult to see any scenario where he does make it back. But then, can he be effective?
As it is, Manning has been more miss than hit this season. With 15 interceptions overall, the problems were not only this past week. It is completely plausible that Manning has been injured to some degree all season. This possibility is frankly the less painful of the two options as a fan and observer—to the one that he simply has lost his vast abilities on the football field. What is obvious is that his mind is writing checks his body simply cannot cash. While his mind is still two steps ahead, his body is not. For the day on Sunday he was but 5-of-20, 35 yards, and was pulled in the third quarter in favor of Brock Osweiler.
Head Coach Gary Kubiak was very adamant in saying postgame that Manning was not benched, and he was taken out purely to protect him—a statement that made sense once we learned of the injury. It was the first time Manning had ever been removed from an NFL game through coaches’ decision in anything other than mop-up situations. Even those have been rare. Peyton Manning has always been one for finishing what he started, for better or for worse, a complete and true professional. Now it might be all over.
As always, Manning was without excuses and all class in answering every question the assembled media had for him afterward in addressing the extent to which he tried to perform for his team—and the struggle of not being able to.
“I wanted to go. I wanted to be out there for the team,” Manning said. “I did feel like we had some guys down, so I wanted to be out there. But I was as honest with them with the feedback as I could give them, and certainly did not play well—and I’m disappointed about that.”
Officially, the Broncos are speaking of this as a week-to-week and fluid situation.
“He wants to go and wants to do everything that he can for his football team,” Kubiak said. “We spent a good hour together up there. I know that, but I tried to express to him my concern for getting him back to himself and feeling better. I think he understands the position that I’m in, and I sure as hell understand the type of person that he is and the player he is.”
The future is cloudy at best for the all-time leading passer in pro football history.