All signs point to Peyton Manning returning for an 18th NFL season.
Manning, the league’s only five-time most valuable player, is expected to announce next week whether he will be back for another season with the Denver Broncos, who were one-and-done in the playoffs last month with a home loss to Indianapolis in the divisional round.
ESPN, citing unnamed league and team sources, said Manning has reassured Broncos officials, including executive John Elway, that he is physically and mentally prepared to return to play for the 2015 season.
Manning, who will turn 39 next month, has been working in New Orleans with trainer Mackie Shilstone, who specializes in training older athletes, among them tennis star Serena Williams and boxer Bernard Hopkins.
Manning was slowed by a quadriceps injury at the end of last season, and still needs to undergo a physical examination as mandated by his contract. Under his current deal, he will be guaranteed $19 million for next season if he is on the roster March 9, the eve of the NFL’s new business year.
The Broncos have a new head coach in Gary Kubiak, and the strategy he used in Houston doesn’t mesh with what Manning does best. Kubiak typically likes quarterbacks who are somewhat mobile, hand off the ball as much as they throw it, and don’t change the plays at the line of scrimmage.
Still, if a coach has an opportunity to have Manning at quarterback, it’s the coach who will be adjusting more than the player.
“Oh, hell yes,” Hall of Fame coach John Madden said by phone recently when asked whether Kubiak would tailor his offense to Manning. “When you have Peyton, you have to change your style if it doesn’t fit.”
Madden, who is close friends with Manning, was asked whether he’d be surprised if Manning decided to call it a career now.
“I’d be very surprised,” he said.