There is way too much misinformation on Peyton Manning's injury. First of all, a little history.
According to Dungy and Manning, Peyton received his initial neck injury in a game against the Washington Redskins on Oct. 22, 2006. Dungy recalled that " Manning's neck was wrenched and his helmet ripped off when he took a hit by Andre Carter followed by a hit from Phillip Daniels". The hits were legal so do not read anything into that.
When Manning got up he shook his right arm " as if to get the feeling back into it". Peyton took a time out and told the back up QB to be ready. Peyton went on to throw for 244 yards and three TD's in the second half. According to Irsay and Dungy the neck would get aggravated over the next few years but nothing really abnormal.
But, in September of 2010 it was reported that Peyton had been injured sometime before week one. That is when the disc in his neck began to do nerve damage. Manning struggled with pain throughout the 2010 season. He admitted to not having as much throwing strength as usual. This resulted in his decreased production: 91.2 passer rating, 4700 yards, 33 TD's and 17 Int. (hell of a season for an injured QB).
Peyton's first two surgeries were more noninvasive in an attempt to keep the disc from doing damage to the nerve. The fusion was done on the third attempt and was successful. Two of the countries leading neurosurgeons, along with the Colts neurosurgeon have cleared Peyton to play in the NFL again. This relates completely to the fusion itself. Not the nerve regeneration that is subsequent to the fusion surgery.
Peyton is no more likely to "break his neck and be paralyzed" than anyone else in the league. The fusion does not make his neck "weaker", it just may be a little less mobile. Only time will tell. The discs are fused and healed and no longer do damage to the nerve, which is what has caused the loss in arm strength.
The question now is, when and if the nerve will completely heal. This process can take from a few months to a year. The fact is, a study was done on this very issue in regards to NFL players who have had disc herniation's and nerve damage. According to the Spine Orthopedics,Aug. 2010, 72% of NFL players who underwent surgery for disk herniation and resulting nerve damage returned to play, on average for 2.8 more years. The non-surgery group returned to play for just 1.5 years.
In an interview with Joe Montana, Joe said he underwent fusion surgery in 1986 and was told many of the same things Peyton has by so many around him- just retire. Montana underwent his surgery and went on to win Super Bowls 23 and 24, was MVP in 1989, Super Bowl MVP and led his team to two 14-2 regular seasons. And all of this after disc fusion surgery.
According to Peyton and those around him he is getting strength back in his arm. Both Reggie Wayne and Joseph Addai took some reps from Manning and agreed that he was getting more zip on the ball. It could still take several months to find out if Peyton will be in that 72% club and get back to full strength.
The Colt's do not have the luxury of waiting to find out as they have to make a decision before March 8th and a 28 million dollar bonus they would have to pay Manning. It's not going to happen and Peyton will become a free agent.
The rest of the NFL has more time to see how Peyton is doing. The fact is the odds are in Peyton's favor. He is already getting his strength back and there is a three out of four chance his nerve will heal completely. If so, I believe Peyton has at least three more years of Manning level football left in him, maybe more. He may be 36 but other than this neck injury he was the least sacked QB in the league his entire career. He has never taken the kind of punishment other older QB's have endured.
I would also add that Peyton may be the smartest most cerebral QB in history. I believe he can adjust his game as he gets older and still be just as dangerous. Kinda like Michael Jordan when he could no longer dunk a ball from the free throw line. He just invented the fade shot and won more titles.
If Peyton's nerve completely heals, a team in need of a franchise QB would be nuts not to go for him. Just my two cents.