“Peyton’s not done,” Condon said in an NFL Network interview, reinforcing a statement by Manning’s surgeon that he is cleared to play. “Peyton certainly expects to return to play. He wants to play. He’s enthusiastic about it. I think that the rehabilitation is going very well and I think he believes that, also. He’s made substantial progress. We anticipate him playing football next year.”
The issue remains regeneration of a nerve in Manning’s neck, not the fusion he underwent. “Dr. [Robert] Watkins [Sr.] has said that he’s structurally sound and that the fusion has taken place and that’s healed,” Condon said in an NFL Network interview. “He can take a hit and play in a football game. The other part of it, of course, is the continued rehabilitation which he’s been at for quite some time and seems to be progressing very well.”
Manning’s future in Indianapolis is very much in doubt, with a $28 million bonus due him March 8, and every day of Super Bowl week has only intensified the feeling that a divorce is imminent. Condon was asked about the timing of Watkins’s statement.
“There’d been some substantial discussion that he wasn’t going to be able to play and it was too dangerous and he was foolish to even think about it and that’s not accurate. He is sound in terms of the structural part of his neck and he can certainly take a hit and he can certainly play in a football game. Now how effective he would be in a game? Probably not as effective today as he will be two months from now.”
Just hours after Watkins’s statement Thursday, Irsay issued a tweet of his own, saying, in essence, “hold your horses,” and focusing on the nerve issue:
Peyton has not passed our physical nor has he been cleared to play for The Indianapolis Colts. Team statement coming on Friday.
Condon admitted that he wasn’t familiar with any similar cases.
“Let’s face it, it’s not a common injury. Certainly we’ve had a lot more shoulders and knees and, to tell you the truth, I can’t think offhand [of another case like Manning’s]. But I don’t know that that has much significance really. What we’re really talking about is the best back and neck guy in the country taking a look at Peyton Manning, [has] done the surgery on him and made the determination that he’s structually sound and that’s absolutely true.”
Now all that’s left is the not inconsequential task of Manning and Irsay talking it out, if not hugging it out. And if Manning leaves Indy?
“There are some guys that when they leave their previous team, they’re done. Peyton’s not done,” Condon said. “He’s enthusiastic, he loves to compete, he loves the game, and he’s a great player.”
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