By now you all know that Colts QB Peyton Manning, whose 208 consecutive regular-season starts is the longest active streak in the NFL, underwent neck surgery for the second offseason in a row.
In fact, Manning has undergone surgery in three of the past four offseasons (he had an infected bursa sac removed from his left knee prior to the 2008 season).
Add to that the fact that his 17 interceptions last season were his highest total since 2001 and I can guarantee you that folks in some fantasy circles are wondering if they're beginning to see the chinks in the future Hall of Famer's seemingly indestructible armor.
I'm just not one of them.
That Manning also set career highs in attempts (679), completions (479) and passing yards (4,700) last season doesn't tell the whole story. He consistently was under duress, playing behind a subpar offensive line and with an ever-changing cast of characters that even the coaching staff had a hard time identifying by the end of the season.
Sure, his three-game slump between Weeks 11-13, in which he tossed 11 interceptions — including two pick-sixes — looked more like a stretch that would come from the '10 version of Favre than Manning. But he quickly rebounded by leading his club to four consecutive wins to end the regular season and clinch a record-tying ninth consecutive postseason berth. He had a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 9-2 during that stretch. Throw out that bad three-game stretch and Manning's TD-interception ratio was a scintillating 25-6.
Let's take a look at what the Colts did this offseason to address some of the issues Manning had regarding his supporting cast last season. They spent their first two picks of the draft on offensive linemen who are expected to be starters from Day One. They also spent a fourth-rounder on a between-the-tackles bruiser who should immediately become their best short-yardage option since Edgerrin James.
And then there are all of the key offensive weapons returning from injury. Pro Bowl TE Dallas Clark, a favorite of Manning's, is back to 100 percent. Emerging star WR Austin Collie, who was among the most productive wideouts in the NFL last season before a broken thumb and two chilling concussions spoiled a potentially special campaign, says he has no lingering side effects. Furthermore, former first-rounder and presumably healthy WR Anthony Gonzalez enters a contract year and his final opportunity to prove to the Colts he can stay on the field.
I know what you're saying: what about Manning's neck? Anytime a procedure is done anywhere near the spinal cord, it is absolutely a concern. I have been told, however, that his range of motion won't be affected, and the procedure to repair a bulging disk was essentially the same procedure he had last offseason — just at a different level. I was also told that the recovery time should be similar (Manning was throwing within two weeks of the surgery last offseason). So even though he reportedly has been reluctant to participate in physical therapy because he prefers to use the team's doctors, he should still have enough time to recover if the timeline we continue to hear for ending the lockout holds true.
If I'm in the shoes of Colts owner Jim Irsay, who just signed Manning a five-year deal worth $90 million, I sure am nervous about how Manning's neck will hold up two, three, four years down the road.
But as a potential fantasy owner of Manning's this season, I not so boldly predict another monster campaign is on the horizon for the league's only four-time MVP.