x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

There may be no more tomorrows for Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning’s run through the NFL play-offs with the Denver Broncos is not a farewell tour, but fans should remain cautious.

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is not ready to let his record-setting season end without the final stop being the Super Bowl. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots stand in his way. Charlie Riedel / AP Photo
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is not ready to let his record-setting season end without the final stop being the Super Bowl. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots stand in his way. Charlie Riedel / AP Photo

Peyton Manning’s run through the NFL play-offs with the Denver Broncos is not a farewell tour, but fans should remain cautious because, if Denver loses Sunday’s AFC championship (midnight, Monday, UAE) showdown against the New England Patriots, it could be the 37-year-old quarterback’s last game.

In this campaign, Manning broke Tom Brady’s season record for touchdowns, as well as the passing yards record held by Drew Brees.

But this week he hinted at a possible retirement if medical tests on his surgically repaired neck reveal a greater risk of ­injury.

“The light is at the end of the tunnel for me, no question,” the four-time MVP told ESPN before the Denver Broncos’ 24-17 victory over the San Diego Chargers in last weekend’s divisional play-off game.

Before neck surgery in 2011, Manning had not missed a game during his 13 years in the league, all with the Indianapolis Colts.

He still holds the second-longest consecutive starts streak, 227 games, in league history behind Brett Favre’s 321.

Manning had the surgery to alleviate neck pain and arm weakness that had bothered him for several seasons.

The former Super Bowl MVP was confident he would play that year but then had a second, and much more serious, operation on his neck that sidelined him for the entire season.

The Colts were 2-14 without him, gained the top pick in the 2013 draft and chose quarterback Andrew Luck. Indianapolis then released Manning rather than sign him to a new contract.

After Denver’s brief Tim Tebow era, the Broncos quickly signed Manning to a five-year deal, but with strings attached.

As mandated by his contract, Manning is scheduled to have a physical exam in March.

If everything is fine he will return for his third year with Denver. If the results are not good, the Broncos may force him to retire regardless of what happens over the next 15 days.

The risk of catastrophic injury is a concept the NFL increasingly considers.

Denver set a record this year for points in a season with 606 and that was, in large part, because of Manning.

Next year, he may be watching from the sidelines and there is not much he can do about it.

He already is considered by many to be the best quarterback to have played the game, but what Manning can do is beat the Patriots tomorrow and then win his second Super Bowl on ­February 2.

That way, if he has to quit, Manning will have at least gone out with a bang.

agray@thenational.ae

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