EDEN PRAIRIE —
Manning has thrown for 30 touchdowns against only 10 interceptions, ranking in the top 10 in almost every passing category in the NFL. After four procedures to fix a nerve problem in his neck that weakened his throwing arm and switching cities, teammates, coaches and playbooks, Manning has transformed the Broncos into a real-deal Super Bowl contender.
Peterson was hurt on Christmas Eve, so he missed only one game last season, which will likely count at least a few votes against him. Quarterbacks have their hands on the ball every play, too, helping Manning’s cause. Plus, Manning’s injury had the potential to be just as debilitating to his job as Peterson’s.
Baltimore running back Ray Rice, for his part, did all he could to consider Peterson before Manning’s case won him over.
“In my history of playing football, I’ve never seen a guy come back that fast off of an ACL. I know he’s a beast, but ... when you hear about neck injuries, you usually hear about someone being done for their career,” Rice said. “No matter what it was, the guy had surgery, lost all his strength in his arm, had to gain it back.”
Manning insisted he’s too focused on his own team and his opponents to have paid much attention to Peterson in the other conference.
“But what a heck of a player, what a heck of an athlete,” he said.
Peterson, too, said he’s been impressed with Manning’s exploits when he’s had the rare chance to watch at home on television, though not enough to concede the award, of course. That’s how he got to this point, after all. Relying on his top-flight medical treatment, his lifelong Christian faith and his freakishly athletic genes, Peterson refused to accept that he couldn’t come back from the injury even better than before. That, he’s done. With 161 more yards rushing, he’ll be at his career high.