Could this be Peyton Manning’s last season?


Peyton Manning said earlier this season that he was closer to the end than to the beginning of his career. (Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

Peyton Manning will turn 38 in March, a prospect that last week had him musing that “the light is at the end of the tunnel for me, no question.”

After recovering from a number of neck procedures that imperiled his career, he has played two full seasons — and has given it his all this season, going on an historic romp in which he set single-season records for touchdowns and passing yards. Now, though, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reports that his future will be determined in just a few months when he undergoes a contractually-required examination of his neck, on which he had vertebral fusion before returning to play in 2012. If the exam in March shows that his neck is fine, he will play in the 2014 season, Mortensen reported. If there is an increased likelihood of injury, the four-time MVP would retire.

The Denver Broncos are 13-3 and face the San Diego Chargers in the NFC divisional playoff game, but the Broncos’ postseason results won’t affect his decision. Manning was always philosophical about the matter, saying he would follow doctors’ orders. But last week, when he was asked about whether he could enjoy a playoff game after his postseason shortcomings, he gave a thoughtful answer (via ESPN’s Jeff Legwold):

“Well, I think it depends what attitude you want to approach it with. I mean, if it’s just miserable this whole time then why are you really doing it? I mean, there are other things you can do that might make you feel less miserable than if it’s just an absolute grind. That is my approach. And maybe, as you get older, you think more in those lines — that, ‘Hey, this is a pretty unique opportunity to be in this position, to be one of just a few teams playing.’ It’s going to be a great atmosphere on Sunday, playing a good football team, and there is nothing else I would rather be doing than be in that opportunity. And so that is certainly my goal to enjoy the preparation — not just the game — to actually enjoy the preparation part of it, enjoy being around the guys. Because certainly, the light is at the end of the tunnel for me, no question. And so, I think you enjoy these things maybe even more than maybe you have in the past.”

After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.

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Cindy Boren · January 12, 2014

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