Found March 20, 2012 on Juiced Sports Blog:
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MEGAN BROWN

Unwavering belief in one’s self is just one factor behind the great top athletes in their sport.

As much as athletes are praised by fans and the media, they can be questioned and doubted just as often. How many times have you read a magazine, browsed a website or watched SportsCenter and saw analysts dissecting every play and questioning how much a veteran player had left to offer?

Michael Jordan, Brett Favre and Andy Pettitte believed they had more to give to their sports after retiring and they made comebacks. While Peyton Manning has never once talked about retirement, there have been plenty of others who feel like he should.

Manning is regarded as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. And he’s had the ability to change an entire team; just ask the Indianapolis Colts, who went 2-14 without him last season and 10-6 the year before when he was healthy.

But football is a contact sport, and part of the reason many fans love it, is to watch vicious hits. Many of these hits are landed on quarterbacks from the blind side, forcing their necks to snap back. After three neck surgeries and several other procedures, fans and analysts alike are wondering if Manning can still do it.

It’s so common for professional athletes to go under the knife and have procedures performed these days that we as fans talk about it like it’s nothing; but anytime someone’s body is being cut open, it’s a pretty big deal. And this isn’t an injury to a foot or shoulder—we’re talking about the neck, a sensitive and delicate area. Players have been paralyzed after suffering neck injuries on the field before.

While Manning had a handful of teams publicly in the market for his services, I thought—and still think—that he should retire. Sure, a deal worth $96 million for five years is amazing, and I certainly couldn’t imagine leaving that much money on the table, but a person’s physical well-being is at stake.  Manning has earned more than $100 million through contracts and big endorsement deals. I know you loved those Peyton Manning Sprint commercials, right?

The Denver Broncos medical staff and management team put Manning through a series of tests, and they’ve cleared him to return to the game and dominate the field. Although they’re fully behind him, they have their own version of personal health insurance setup just in case.

As reported by ESPN, Manning will receive $18 million in his first season. But years two and three are when things might get interesting. Manning will undergo a physical in February or early March; if he passes, then the guaranteed $40 million kicks in (he’ll earn $20 million a season for the second and third years of the deal).

There’s a clause in the contract that states if Manning suffers an injury related to his spinal fusion surgery, the team can reduce his pay for the next season. In years four and five, he’ll be guaranteed $19 million each season, as long as he passes a physical at the start of each season. It just seems like if you have to add this type of clause, the threat of another injury occurring is real. If Manning walked away from the game today, he would be respected and viewed as one of the best to ever play the game.

Obviously, Manning still believes he can make the throws he’s made all throughout his career. But that’s what makes him great: that unwavering belief in his abilities and his work ethic. I just hope this work ethic doesn’t result in suffering an injury that limits what he can do after football.

But no matter what, Peyton Manning will always be an Indianapolis Colt in my eyes.

Photo: Getty
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