Fans, players, coaches and executives for the Denver Broncos can breathe a sigh of relief, as Peyton Manning is officially cleared to play in the 2014 NFL season after passing his annual physical exam.
The physical didn't reveal any lingering effects of the neck injury that kept him out of the entire 2011 season with the Indianapolis Colts, according to Mike Klis of The Denver Post:
Manning's $20 million salary for the 2014 season is now fully guaranteed, per Klis. His five-year deal runs through the 2016 season (h/t Spotrac), but Manning is contractually obligated to undergo a physical each offseason throughout the rest of his contract to guarantee the upcoming campaign's salary.
Despite the neck injury, Manning has performed better than ever the past two seasons for the Broncos. The 37-year-old led Denver to the playoffs in both seasons, including an appearance in Super Bowl XLVIII, and broke single-season records for both passing yards (5,477) and touchdowns (55) in 2013-14.
That's especially impressive considering that even his brother Eli Manning said he was unsure if Peyton would ever return to form following the surgery, per Kevin Patra of NFL.com:
I saw him after that first surgery, this neck surgery, and I was pretty much convinced that he was done. There was no way he could come back and play football.
That first time he went and we were just throwing it in the backyard of our house. We're throwing 15 yards away, and it was a lob. He couldn't throw 15 yards on a line. It had no pop. I was like, I mean—he wanted to come back and play football, and I didn't think it would happen.
Needless to say, he's clearly made his comeback felt around the league.
While the Broncos are still reeling from the 43-8 blowout loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl, Manning's return will be reason for hope heading into next season.
Though he's turning 38 on March 24, Manning still appears to be on top of his game. But with another loss in the Super Bowl, the questions about his legacy won't go away during the 2014 regular season and into the postseason.
With a clean bill of health, NFL fans can expect another great campaign from Manning. While it likely won't be of the same caliber he put up during 2013, no other quarterback in history has posted those numbers. The Broncos will yet again be a contender for the Super Bowl with him behind center.
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