After undergoing neck fusion surgery on Sept. 8, his third such procedure over the past 19 months, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning is more than ready to move on to the next stage of his rehabilitation process.
Manning was given clearance Thursday evening by one of the California-based surgeons who performed the operation to begin ramping up his workouts. During a teleconference Thursday with Manning and Colts medical officials, Dr. Robert Watkins gave the four-time National Football League MVP the yellow light to proceed with football-related workouts.
Proceed with caution was the gist of what Watkins told Manning, team rehabilitation specialist Erin Barill and the rest of the Colts’ medical staff.
“It’s encouraging and gives me another part of the plan to go out there and try to execute [and] try to rehab. We’ll see where it goes from there. I’ve been pretty good in following the doctor’s orders and following Erin [Barill’s] plan, and that’s allows for more activities. So I look forward to kind of seeing what those are, and to trying to get back into a normal routine,” the Colts quarterback told the large number of national and Indiana reporters who crowded around his locker during a hectic interview session Friday.
“It’s nice to kind of having the reins cut off you a little bit, and having a little more freedom to do some normal weight lifting activities, on the field activities, things that you’re normally used to doing. So it’s good because that means that we’ve done what we were supposed to do these past three months. It doesn’t guarantee anything in this next phase, but it does allow you to step into that phase. I guess the worst news we could have heard the other day was, ‘hey, you’re still not where you want to be, and you’ve got to keep doing what you’ve been doing.’[Dr. Watkins] has given us clearance for the next phase, and I’ll follow that as well as I can.”
As for the possibility of returning to the practice field before the end of the current season, Manning didn’t want to make any predictions or guarantees.
“Like I’ve said all along, that would be what I would like to do, and I think the plan for this next phase is to go out there and see what I can do now that I have a little bit more clearance. I’d like to have practiced three months ago, and I’d like to have played the first game of the season. So if you’re asking if I want to be out there, I think you know the answer to that question,” he voiced.
“So I still do believe that practice is a great avenue to answer some questions, and to see where you are. So I think we’ll make that determination here in this next phase, and if that’s good, then I’d like to do that. If it’s better just to keep rehabbing in a private setting, then it’s whatever the [Watkins] and Erin think is best. Certainly, what I would like to do, sure, I’d like to suit-up Sunday [against the New England Patriots].”
While Watkins confirmed Thursday that the neck fusion has healed and Manning has stability in his neck now, questions remain about the nerve regeneration process. There is no timetable for how long it takes the nerves to regenerate in the neck, which would allow the quarterback to regain and improve on his arm strength.
“We have some more questions to answer, and we have some things that we haven’t been allowed to do in this past phase. So now that we can do a little more throwing [we can make a better assessment]. Throwing will be a part of this next progression, [and] that is somewhat critical to my job,” he said.
“I will be throwing, and have been doing some throwing, and we’re going to ramp that up a little bit and answer some more questions about where we are.”
On other topics, Manning talked about:
n Whether he’’ll finish his NFL career with the Colts — “I understand the timing of that question. [Thursday] was an important day for us, and I’m still trying to kind of digest that and see what I can do next. As far as questions about [my] long-term career and about the 2012 NFL Draft, I think those are inappropriate frankly, given the fact that we had a coach [former defensive coordinator Larry Coyer] get fired this week, we have players playing for jobs and we have changes being made,” he said.
“It tells you that this is a serious time for our team, and all we want to do is get a win on Sunday and all I want to do is keep making progress. So anything beyond those two things isn’t really on my radar at this point.”
n Would he be willing to restructure his contract to accommodate the drafting of another quarterback — “Once again, it’s just a question that, certainly, there will be a time and a place to address it. I think a lot of questions will answer themselves in these next three months, if you will. I’ve had a lot of energy and time. One thing about this rehab, when you’re practicing football, you actually enjoy it. It’s fun going out there and practicing,” Manning said.
“So I just haven’t thought about anything beyond trying to follow the doctor’s orders and be in a good position at these checkpoints. So [my] contract, [the] 2012 Draft and anything beyond that is something that I just haven’t thought about. I’m sure there will be a time when I’ll need to think about it more, but it’s just not the time right now. I just haven’t put the thought into it.”
n On whether he has discussed the team’s draft plans with Colts vice-president Bill Polian — “First let me say, any conversations that Bill and I have belong between he and I. I will say that he and I have not had a conversation about the 2012 Draft. Bill keeps a lot of the players informed on different things, but I’ve never known who we were going to draft in year’s past. I don’t think that it was insinuated that he checks with me. I’m not in personnel, and I don’t do personnel. So I’ve had no conversation about the 2012 Draft, especially [since] I think that’s inappropriate to even think that I would have [that conversation] during the 2011 season while we’re playing,” the quarterback said.
“No. I don’t get into personnel, I don’t. So I don’t know what was said on [Polian’s weekly] radio show, but that’s just not a conversation that happened between he and I. But whatever Bill has to do for the organization, that’s what he has to do. I just play football. I really have been just the starting quarterback here for 13 years, and no other hat or role besides doing my job to do that. Whatever they have to do, [team owner] Jim [Irsay] and Bill, that’s what they have to do. I don’t really know what else to say besides that.”