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Question on Manning is whether he'll play at all

The Peyton Manning snowball is reaching avalanche proportions now.

The Colts have cleaned house and it seems as if Manning will be the next to be ushered out the door. The Dolphins and Jets have leaked word they would be interested in Manning. The 49'ers might be interested. The Cardinals might be interested. Manning, in an extensive interview with the Indianapolis Star, seems unhappy with the current state of affairs in Indy.

And a decision on Manning from the Colts, arrived at mutually with Manning, is due prior to March 8 -- the date Manning is due a $28 million bonus that the Colts must decide to pay to retain him or not pay and let him walk.

So Dolphins fans are fired up. They're excited at the prospect of their quarterback-hungry team acquiring one of the all-time best quarerbacks of the modern era.

Stop.

Breathe.

Think.

Before we waste any more news print ... um, well, cyberspace ... on the idea of whether Peyton Manning will come to the Dolphins, let us consider a more fundamental and sobering question:

Will Peyton Manning ever play football again?

The truth is the chances he may never play again are just as high as the ones suggesting he'll ever be in a Dolphins uniform. The truth is Manning has had three neck surgeries in the past 19 months, the latest in September of 2011, and none of those procedures have yet to make him right.

He lost feeling in portions of his throwing arm because one or more of the nerves that feeds into the arm either died or became impinged or simply stopped firing. As a result, the triceps on his throwing arm often felt numb. And it suffered atrophy.

That glorious arm that has thrown for 54,828 yards in 14 seasons? It's broken right now.

Yes, Manning might wake up today and suddenly the surgery meant to regenerate the nerve might suddenly get it firing again. And all will be well with him again. But it might not. And it might not tomorrow or ever for all we know.

Don't believe me. Former Colts president Bill Polian, among those swept out after Indy's 2-14 season along with most of the coaching staff, told ESPN radio this week there is no set course for getting Manning healthy.

"We just don't know. And nobody can tell you," Polian said. "I'll quote Dr. Watkins or at least paraphrase Dr. Watkins, who operated on Peyton back in September: He said there is no potion, there is no known medicine, there is no modality, there is no series of exercises, there is no test and there is no surgery that can predict accurately when a nerve will regenerate. And that is the issue here.

"And from what I understand, as of at least a month ago, progress was on-going and the graph was up but no one can know when and if Peyton's nerve that controls the triceps muscle will regenerate completely and will regenerate enough for him to play. The hope of every doctor -- and we talked to many -- is that it will. The expectation is that it will. When it will, no one can predict.

"It's extremely frustrating for Peyton, I know. And he's a soldier through it better than anyone I've ever seen in my career. But it's on ongoing process. And hopefully for him and his family it's sooner rather than later but nobody can predict it."

Polian went on to call Manning's injury, "the most troubling, most vexing injury situation I've faced in all my years in football."

And that is the player the Dolphins are supposed to bank their short-term future on?

Look, Manning is great. Everyone knows that. If he is healthy by March 8, I would guess the Colts will keep him. If, however, he's healthy and the Colts decide to go another direction simply because Manning is soon to be 36 and they're going in another direction, then obviously the Dolphins should be in the derby to land Manning.

But if he's not healthy? No. Thank. You.

My guess is if March 8 comes around and Manning's nerve still isn't healed, he'll be a man without a team. And then what?

Will he retire? Will he hit free agency?

He might do one just as much as the other. If two months from now he's still hoping for a long dormant nerve to wake up and revive his career, he might have no choice but wait and wait and wait.

He might have no choice but retire.

If Manning wants to continue waiting on a healing, some teams might be willing to wait with him. Others will go about their business and address their quarterback needs other ways. I hope the Dolphins do not sit by and hope and wait on a miracle that may never come.

We'll see what happens.

But until we know what choices Manning has for sure, until we know what he wants to do, talk of him coming to the Dolphins or any other team is premature.

The avalanche needs a plow.

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