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Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Peyton Manning Shows What He's Made Of

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterDecember 17, 2014

Jake Roth/USA Today

1. Manning toughness

Just how ill was Peyton Manning on Sunday in his game against San Diego? 

Maybe more so than is generally known, which would make his performance more impressive than the statistics show.

ESPN reported that Manning needed four bags of intravenous fluid. According to Dr. Ben Wedro, a physician who writes extensively at MD Direct on sports injuries, this was because Manning was "really, really sick."

Wedro writes:

But sick is relative and he was able to take the field…but there should have been a disclaimer during player introductions, that a professional athlete's body is trained to recover well from adversity and this behavior should not be tried at home. ...

Based on his 4 bags of IV fluids, he was almost 5% dehydrated. ...

It is a testament to the athletic ability of Peyton Manning to recover from that level of dehydration to take the field. Aside from the myalgia, the muscle soreness that accompanies a flu infection, his muscle cells were also inflamed from each donating fluid to the intravascular space. The [adrenaline] of the game can help recovery but it takes some mental strength to not listen to one's body and force it onto the playing field.

This isn't to say Manning was playing with a broken bone or deserves a Purple Heart, but I always believed—despite Manning recovering from a brutal neck surgery—that he was born with a silver football in his mouth. I've never thought of Manning as tough. What he did on Sunday took mental strength.

The dehydration apparently caused Manning's thigh injury. "I'm not a doctor, but I think it's something that probably occurred from dehydration," head coach John Fox told reporters Monday. "You get that stomach flu, and that can happen when you go out there and exert yourself. Most people wouldn't want any part of that. He sucked that up. I think it will be something that we'll know more about as we move forward."

Dec 14, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) looks on during the fourth quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

Did Fox think Manning was returning to the field in the second half? "I didn't know what to think," Fox said. "I put that in the medical people's hands. When we were doing all the stuff we do at halftime—because we do a lot of things adjustment-wise—he was back in the training room. I passed through there, and they were still working on him, so I wasn't sure until I heard the cheers and kind of knew what was happening. We were prepared to go either way."

It seemed that Manning was actually going to sit in the second half, but there he was.

There are all kinds of speculation and questions around the league about issues with Manning's arm, but after Sunday, there shouldn't be any about his toughness.

2. Goodell in some trouble?

Dec 10, 2014; Irving, TX, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (center) addresses the media along with Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill (left) and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft (right) at the Las Colinas Four Seasons Hotel. Mandatory Credi
USA TODAY Sports

Some people, it seems, are forgetting the key role of the commissioner: to take arrows for the owners.

Lots of arrows. The owners stay in the background while Roger Goodell, if necessary, gets targeted. This is the way of the commissioner. He is the front man, the symbol of the NFL and, if needed, a human flak jacket for the owners.

Goodell is also the owners' pit bull. I know there are sweetie-pie pit bulls, but there are also just, well, pit bulls. And the mean pit bulls aren't shy. That's what the owners have wanted. They've wanted Goodell to go after bad boy players, and he happily obliged. This has been ongoing since Goodell entered office. One of his first player discipline acts was punishing Ben Roethlisberger without the quarterback even being charged. His beefs with the Pittsburgh Steelers became so remarkably intense due to off- and on-the-field discipline that the Steelers were the only team to vote against the collective bargaining agreement three years ago, doing so because they didn't trust Goodell.

The owners loved this. The site of Goodell's teeth marks on the hide of some players thrilled owners. I know this because they have told me. They believed the previous commissioner was too close to the union, and they wanted separation, not cooperation. This is why, under Goodell, you have seen almost no negotiation between Goodell and the union. This is purposeful by the NFL.

But there are problems with some bad ass dogs. Some of them, when let off the leash, don't care who they attack. This guy, that dude…just as long as someone is bitten. This has been the problem, until now, with what Goodell has done. It's a two-game suspension. No, it's a year. No, it's not. The dogs have been all over the place.

Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

George Atallah, the union's assistant executive director for external affairs, said on ESPN's Mike & Mike radio show recently:

We know we've had issues with misconduct this year, but those issues haven't caused the outrage. The outrage has been a result of the league's mismanagement between point A, which is an incident of misconduct, and point B, which is a disciplinary outcome. The road between those two has been all over the map, it's been inconsistent, it's been arbitrary, and I don't understand a world where the league would unilaterally try to impose something without the players' input and feedback.

That inconsistency has undermined the league's credibility on this issue, and it will be difficult to get it back. This is not what the owners wanted. Owners want Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady on the front pages of websites, not congressional threats. 

It's for this reason that despite what is a solid new policy with advances that make sense, Goodell is still in some semblance of trouble with the owners. Not firing trouble. That likely won't happen. But trouble of another kind.

I continue to hear, from multiple sources through the NFL, that a fine or some type of public reprimand of Goodell is possible. Emphasis on possible. The report former FBI head Robert Mueller is accumulating will be a key determinant of whether that happens.

One owner, who asked not to be identified, while emphasizing that Goodell has strong support, said a fine or reprimand remains "very possible." This is an owner I've spoken to throughout this entire ordeal—from Ray Rice to Adrian Peterson to the fallout—and he's been spot on.

Now, "very possible" is a long way from "will happen." When Goodell announced the new behavior policy, also present was New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. That is no insignificant visual. I'd say the two most influential owners in the NFL are John Mara and Kraft. I'm told that Goodell also has Mara's support. If true, that bodes extremely well for Goodell.

Yet there are also signs emerging that the commissioner could face some type of discipline himself. Nothing certain. Far from definite. But this could get interesting.

3. Coughlin to return?

Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

I'm hearing what other media outlets are reporting: that New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin will likely be back. He will likely get at least another year. I'm possibly alone in this, but I do think a coach who brought an organization two Super Bowls deserves to go when he wants.

I also don't believe there will be any significant front-office changes. The drafting of Odell Beckham Jr., who is having one of the best rookie seasons any Giant has ever had, has likely insulated the front office from any firings.

4. Kelly a genius?

Michael Perez/Associated Press

Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly has been hailed for his innovative style of play and coaching techniques. He should be. Yet his decision to boot DeSean Jackson should keep him away from the genius tag. It was a horrible decision, and it's coming back to haunt the team now.

Speaking of Philadelphia's inability to form a deep threat in the team's game against Dallas, future Hall of Famer and former front office executive Bill Polian said on ESPN of Jackson: "I think it's fair to say in a game of this magnitude the Eagles miss DeSean Jackson. They miss a big-play, all-the-time receiver."

There's no question it has hurt them. Teams can crowd the line of scrimmage now to stop the Philadelphia running game without the consistent fear of Jackson beating them deep.

That decision hurt the team, and to me it has to be part of the equation when evaluating Kelly.

5. Hoge obliterating Manziel

No one has been more critical of Johnny Manziel than former Steeler and current analyst Merril Hoge. Now, people love to bash Hoge, and his opinions are strong, but that is why I like him. There's nothing phony about him. So many analysts are afraid of being honest due to fear of repercussions from the people they cover. Not Hoge.

His latest salvo against the Browns is interesting, to say the least. 

Hoge said (via The Plain Dealer) of whoever drafted Manziel:

They need to be fired. Because it's unfair to the kid. He has sixth-round talent but first-round hype, and you draft him there and now regardless of what happens from here on out, he will be expected to play like a first-rounder and that's unfair to him.

He doesn't have the skill set to withstand that expectation and that's not his fault, it's the Cleveland Browns' for drafting him that high.

That sounds crazy, and to some degree, making that kind of judgment so soon is nonsensical. But it's also fair to say that Manziel's horrible start puts the Browns in a tough spot. They have two first-round picks in the upcoming draft, and if over the next two contests, Manziel continues to be a disaster, then do the Browns move on and use those picks to get another quarterback?

One thing I don't want to hear again—and I got a lot of this on Twitter—is that other greats like Eli and Peyton Manning, Troy Aikman and John Elway had rough starts. That's true. But those players have a totally different skill set, and even in their struggles, you saw flashes. That wasn't the case with Manziel.

6. Dumb fans

I love this. Read it. Learn from it. Should be required reading for all fans. Maybe for all human beings.

7. Patriots streak

Charles Krupa/Associated Press

New England has won six straight division titles, from 2009 until now. How good is that? It's almost unmatched in NFL history. There has been just one longer such streak: The Rams won seven straight division titles from 1973 to 1979. Yet the Patriots have done their divisional work in the salary cap era. There's a good chance, with Tom Brady being ageless and all, the Patriots will tie that record next season and may even surpass it the following year.

8. Brilliant Trask

Paul Sakuma/Associated Press

Amy Trask, the former Oakland Raiders team executive, and current CBS analyst—who might be the best analyst on television—spoke this past week on the NFL's new conduct policy. Her words made the most sense of almost anyone who spoke on the policy.

Said Trask:

A great step in the right direction. There needs to be and presumably we're on the road to a clearly articulated comprehensive policy which is consistently interpreted and consistently applied. My hope now is that the league and the union set aside their legal differences as to who yielded what rights under the CBA and who has what obligations to collective bargaining. Put that aside, work together collectively, cooperatively, embrace this new program. And as we know, most players in the NFL are terrific, terrific human beings. It's a very, very small percentage to whom this applies. Let's make it work.

9. Marcus Mariota 'will save a franchise'

This from an NFL scout on Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota: "He's going to come into the NFL and he will save a franchise. He'll pull one of these horrible teams out of the basement and into playoff contention fairly quick. He's that good."

Now, we've heard this before from some teams—cough, Manziel, cough—but Mariota does apparently have the skill set that makes him more of a prototypical NFL quarterback. Mariota is fast, has a good arm and is a hard studier. That's what makes him different from, cough, Manziel, cough.

10. Brilliant Hawkins

These words were smart, reasonable and extremely well-chosen. Good for Andrew Hawkins.

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.

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