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Peyton Manning: Old Man?

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Bob Kravitz has an article up discussing 10 years of Peyton Manning in the NFL:

Has it really been 10 seasons? How is it possible that Peyton Manning, now 32 years old and entering his 11th season, is really on the back-nine of his Hall of Fame career?

Wasn't it just 10 minutes ago the football world was debating whether Manning or Ryan Leaf was the best choice to play quarterback for the then-abysmal Indianapolis Colts?

Surprisingly, the article isn't garbage. I can only speak for myself, but I think it does seem like Peyton has played for a long time. His second year in the league was Dan Marino's last. Matt Ryan was in middle school. Tony Dungy was set and comfortable in his job in Tampa Bay. It was pre-9/11, pre-Iraq, and even pre-George W. Bush. I mean, Peyton has played since Bill Clinton was president. So, again, for someone like me, it does seem like Peyton has played for a long while.

That said, I admit it is a bit weird to see articles popping up talking about Peyton as the elder statesman of the NFL. But, with Brett Favre now retired (maybe), Peyton is the eldest elite QB left in this league. Even though guys like McNabb and Brady are close in age to Peyton, they are not quite as old (Peyton is 32). In recent years, we've been reading reports from camp that the Colts have Manning on a "pitch count." Now we hear the Colts have a special trainer who works on Peyton's arm. This trainer did the same job for Marino and Elway when they got into their 30s. Peyton himself admits it is a concern keeping his arm fresh:

I have thrown a lot of passes being a starter for that many years, going back to college.

The good news is Peyton is as healthy; probably as healthy as any 32-year-old QB can be. He conditions himself well, works very hard, and the Colts provide him with the resources necessary to keep his arm and body fresh. It is certainly very possible that he will play for another 6 years, retiring when he is ready, and not getting retired.

Another positive is the make-up of the team itself. The Colts are the second youngest team in football. Budding stars like Anthony Gonzalez, Tony Ugoh, and Joseph Addai are the kinds of players Manning loves having on the team; young players with energy, wanting to prove they are the best. Also, this youth has kept the Colts competitive for years. Guys like Favre, Marino, and Elway went through dry spells where the team around them had to rebuild. Peyton has only really experienced this once, and for a short period of time (2001-2002). And as the Colts continue to bring in quality talent to fill needs, Peyton and the rest of the team keep chugging along.

The point: Peyton Manning will likely play at a high level for a while longer, God willing.