Whatever happens in the coming days and weeks, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning's NFL future beyond this season won't be decided until he has an offseason exam on his surgically repaired neck, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reports.
"If the exam reveals that his neck is stable, Manning plans to return to the Broncos in 2014, regardless of how Denver fares this postseason, according to sources," Mortensen writes. "But if there is an increased risk of injury, Manning will be forced to decide whether to retire, sources said."
Earlier this week, Manning raised eyebrows when he said, "The light is at the end of the tunnel for me, no question." The 37-year-old has been in the league since 1998, when the Colts drafted him first overall, and he had four neck surgeries before arriving in Denver prior to the 2012 season.
If Manning does end up calling it a career, Brock Osweiller, who was taken in the second round of the 2012 draft, would be his likely replacement.
On Sunday morning, hours before the Broncos were to host the Chargers in the AFC Divisional game, the Denver Post ran this on the front page of their playoff section with the caption: "Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has been heavenly during the regular season, but merely mortal in the postseason with a 9-11 record that ranks poorly among the all-time greats."