He has lived with the burden of carrying the Indianapolis Colts as the team’s franchise player for 13 seasons. He knows what it’s like to win a Super Bowl, and knows the sting of a Super Bowl loss.
Even with all of his experience, Manning is entering uncharted waters in his career. The quarterback is coming back from significant injury for the first time in his career, and must now deal with the pressure of not only performing in a new city, but maintaining a healthy recovery.
Manning underwent neck surgeries in both May and September of 2011, and was held out of the entire 2011-12 NFL season with the Colts. The future Hall-of-Famer now finds himself with the Denver Broncos, facing what is likely the most pressure in his career.
No. 18 is expected to be playing at his highest level right out of the gate. However, just because the 11-time Pro Bowler has begun throwing footballs again does not mean he will have an easy recovery.
For the first time, Manning will not be able to rely on his excellent football IQ, work ethic and skill alone. He is working on something slightly out of his control — the health of his neck. And all while adjusting to a new environment. Broncos fans are going from one of the worst mechanical throwers in the NFL, Tim Tebow, to one of the best of all-time in Manning, so they expect huge things right away.
This pressure could be coming slightly too early though, as Manning has yet to take a single hit from a 300-pound defensive lineman. Fans assume he is 100 percent healthy, yet the fact is that nobody knows how his neck will feel after an inevitable blindside sack.
Manning may be able to deliver the Broncos an anticipated playoff berth. But the pressure to perform can’t come without understanding that Manning is still on a road to recovery he’s never encountered before. And although he’s fine to throw and run in practice, we won’t really know how he feels being hit until the real NFL action begins in September.