The prospects for the Peyton Manningless Indianapolis Colts looked bleak Sunday, prompting all kinds of observations about whether Manning might be the most valuable human ever and just how many deficiencies his prowess camouflaged. He’s so good, in fact, that his absence made it clear he’s the front-runner for MVP again, even if he doesn’t take a snap this year.
Stuff like that.
His neck problems prompted his former coach, Tony Dungy, to pinpoint the moment of their origin: an Oct. 22, 2006, game against the Washington Redskins. Talking with Peter King on NBC’s NFL preview show Saturday night, Dungy recalled that Manning’s neck was wrenched and his helmet ripped off when he took a low hit by Andre Carter, followed by a high hit by Phillip Daniels. The anecdote was relayed by King, who said that Manning stretched his neck when he got up and shook his right arm “as if trying to get the feeling back in it.”
(UPDATE 4:55 p.m.: Phillip Daniels responds)
“Earlier in the game,” Dungy said, “I'm outraged that there was a flag for roughing-the-passer on Dwight Freeney for just grazing the quarterback's helmet. So I'm yelling at the ref [Scott Green], ‘Where's the flag! Where's the flag!’ And I don't yell much, but I did then. So I didn't notice Peyton calling timeout and being shaken up. Peyton came to the sideline and said to [backup] Jim Sorgi, ‘Jim, start warming up.’ As the timeout went on, he said to us, ‘I can stay in, but we need to run the ball here.’ ”
The Colts did and kicked a field goal; they trailed the Redskins 14-13 at halftime in Indianapolis.
“Then we sort of forgot about it at halftime, and Peyton seemed fine,” Dungy said. “He lit it up in the second half. He was on fire [throwing for 244 yards and three touchdowns]. But that's the year we started cutting back on his throws at practice. I'm not putting two plus two together. I just figure he's getting older and he needs some time off, he's made enough throws. But now, as I look back on it, there's no doubt in my mind that this was the start of his neck problems.”
Manning, who is expected to be out two-to-three months after having neck surgery, finished the day in 2006 with 342 yards passing for four touchdowns, no interceptions and a 140.4 passer rating as the Colts won, 36-22.
Daniels responded to Dungy’s comments on Monday, claiming the hit was clean on his Twitter feed.
“Funny how Tony Dungy is tracing Manning's neck problem back 5 years ago. I still to this day think it was a good hit and only fined because of who the QB was. Andre pulling him forward and my arm across his chess going opposite direction and he falls to his knees causing my arm to go higher. Refs saw same thing so that's why there was no flag. Sometimes as a QB you have to know the end of the road and get down instead of trying to make a spectacular throw. I have never been a dirty player so him getting hurt in that game was not me trying to hurt him but rather him being in crazy position. I think he has thrown for a million yards since then and taken a few other hits since 2006.”
Related: Favre says Redskins may have ended his career