Peyton Manning cleared to play again

Peyton Manning may never wear Indianapolis uniform again but doctors have cleared him to play for somebody.

INDIANAPOLIS — Peyton Manning has reportedly been given medical clearance to play. Now if he can regain the strength in his right arm, then perhaps the Jets will find a way to make a run at the player who is expected to become the most famous free agent in NFL history.

Manning, who had spinal fusion surgery in his neck in September and missed the entire 2011 season, has been just as big a topic during Super Bowl week as the Giants and Patriots. On Thursday, ESPN reported that the QB’s doctors, including Dr. Robert Watkins, who performed the most recent of Manning’s three neck surgeries, have cleared him to play.

According to the report, Watkins said Manning’s neck was stable enough that he could have played a game on Sunday.

The major issue, of course, is the regeneration of nerves in Manning’s arm. He has been throwing to receivers this week. Unless he regains the strength in his arm and can throw the football with NFL quality velocity, it’s going to be hard for him to play.

Meanwhile, it appears extremely unlikely the Colts will exercise the $28 million option in Manning’s contract, which would then make him a free agent. The Jets could sign him and keep Mark Sanchez as insurance. The Redskins, Cardinals and Dolphins could also be interested.

The Colts are set to take Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the first pick in the draft in April. Luck is thought to be ready to step in and play right away.

“I think every competitor wants to play, every down, every play,” Luck said Thursday. “So, of course, who wouldn’t want to start?”

Manning, who will be 36 in March, and Colts owner Jim Irsay plan to meet next week to discuss the four-time MVP’s future.

“It’s two-phased. There’s the medical aspect, as to whether he can play at a really high level and that’s the only place he wants to be. Can he drill it in Foxborough in 10 degrees, 50 yards, that sort of thing,” Irsay said this week. “The second issue has always been his health and the risks of going back onto the field. When the Super Bowl ends, he and I will continue to talk about it.”

Manning said Tuesday that he intends to keep playing.

“I really feel good. I continue to make progress every day,” he said on ESPN. “Everything that the doctors have told me has been on point, which is encouraging to me. I just had a great day today with rehab, just got back from the facility, and that’s what we continue to do. Just keep trying to get better. So far I have. That’s the plan from here on out.”


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