Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning
I’ve been scratching my head over this award all season now. There are really only two players to take into consideration and honestly…it’s a tossup. Each player had their own significant injury and were predicted to never be the same again. Both players not only came back to the NFL, but they picked back up right where they left off, as if they never had injuries. Here are my two candidates and I will jabber at the end as to who I think will win it.
Peyton Manning – QB – Denver Broncos
Manning was once the beloved franchise quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts. Last season he missed the entire year after having four different surgeries on his neck. Given his age, his injuries, the struggles the Colts went through that landed them with the number one draft pick, the ultimately decided to cut ties with Manning and kicked him to the curb. What a thank you for so many great years, huh? Manning was determined to return to the NFL and started talking to various teams. In the end, the Denver Broncos said, “Sorry Tim Tebow, but you gotta go” and signed Manning to a contract. Right away Super Bowl predictions were flying around. How great would it be if the New York Giants returned to the Super Bowl and Eli had to play against his big brother. WOAH! Can we start the season first? Manning struggled to start the season, likely trying to get his rhythm going, but once he did, he was the Manning of old. Right now…not trying to get ahead of myself…but a Broncos-Giants Super Bowl isn’t impossible, but it just seems too storybook. That aside, playing football after having a major neck injury is almost like a death sentence. Manning came off his three surgeries and is playing football as if nothing had happened. He hasn’t missed a beat.
Adrian Peterson – RB – Minnesota Vikings
Last December, Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson suffered an ACL tear and sidelined him for the remainder of the season. Peterson had his surgery, rehabbed during the offseason, and missed all of the preseason this year. As frustrated as he was missing time and training, he stayed patient. He somehow made it in time for the start of the regular season, but whatever doctor treated him during the offseason should get an award. Peterson has exploded back onto the field likely even better than he was before. The problem with a lot of ACL injuries, especially in the NFL, is that players tend to rush their recoveries to try and get back on the field for the next season. As a result, they are more likely to re-tear before they even get a chance. Peterson took his time, did everything he was supposed to do, and returned stronger than ever. ACL tears are inevitable, you never know when it will happen. It’s not an injury that happens from getting hit. Peterson isn’t showing signs of fear that he could re-tear his and he’s running through defenses like his old self.
So there are your two candidates. As far as voting goes, it really depends on the voter and how they see each situation. If I had a vote, I’d look at the injury that not only is career threatening, but life threatening if it needs to get to that level. With that said, my vote would go to Manning. The NFL is a violent sport, and to have a neck injury as severe as his…I never expected Manning to return. This vote could go either way, but if I had a vote, it’s going to Manning.
Check back tomorrow for my Offensive Player of the Year predictions.
You can follow Kelsey O’Donnell on Twitter @KelsODonnell