As a decision looms on the future of Peyton Manning in Indianapolis, new reports have surfaced surrounding a possible fourth surgery on the neck of the future Hall of Famer.
According to Don Banks of Sports Illustrated, Manning underwent a fourth surgical procedure on his injured neck somewhere between May 23 and September 9 of last year.
What's more, that may not be enough.
Manning could require additional surgery on his neck because of bone spurs. Banks also notes that Manning could need another fusion surgery.
This is terrible news for teams thinking about trying to acquire Manning via trade or free agency if the Colts decide to let him go.
Manning is not getting any younger, which usually means the recovery time takes longer. If he does indeed need further surgery, his future in the NFL will look bleak.
If the recovery time for another procedure is similar to that of his surgeries this past season, he may never play football again.
Although Manning has been trying to begin throwing, it may be for naught if he still needs work on the neck.
As Michael Lombardi noted about his recovery on Bill Simmons' podcast, Manning hasn't been able to do very much:
I've talked to people who've caught the ball for him. He can't throw the ball to his left. He can't throw the ball across his body, because he doesn't feel it. People that catch the ball for him say he doesn't really have velocity on the ball yet.
The best option for Manning, it seems, is for him to retire.
Retiring now would do no damage to his legacy in the NFL. He is already a first ballot Hall of Famer and has cemented himself as one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the game.
Manning has won a record four MVP awards as well as a Super Bowl MVP in his only winning Super Bowl appearance. Manning has also amassed over 54,000 passing yards in his career while throwing for nearly 400 touchdowns.
What else does he have to prove?
Although little brother Eli Manning just won his second Super Bowl trophy, big brother Peyton has had the more impressive career thus far and it's not even close.
This competitiveness could cloud Manning's judgement when the time comes to make a decision on whether or not he can play football anymore.
Manning will assuredly try with everything he has to come back to the NFL in 2012, but that may not be the best option for him.
By playing, he could damage his neck even further and risk problems with his health in the future—and for what gain?
He has already made his mark on the NFL and is a sure-fire Hall of Famer.
His competitive drive is as high as anyone's, but playing football again is a risk Manning shouldn't take.