Peyton Manning is on the short list when it comes to determining the greatest quarterback of all-time.
He also hadn’t missed a professional start his entire NFL career. Then 2011 happened.
Whether Manning does or doesn’t play a snap this season, apparently, is still undecided.
But Manning’s future beyond 2011 is unknown, and a concern.
If this neck injury spells the end of Peyton Manning, he wouldn’t be the first major athlete to have his career cut short by injury.
Freak injuries and chronic ailments have ended the careers of many stars prematurely.
The 1965 NFL Rookie of the Year, Sayers was destined to become one of the best running backs of all-time. But in his fourth season with the Bears, Sayers suffered a devastating injury and tore multiple ligaments in his knee. He did return the following season and actually led the league in rushing, but the speed he once flashed failed him. Sayers suffered a second knee injury in 1970, effectively ending his career. He attempted one final comeback in 1972 but retired before the season started.
A first-round selection by the Patriots, Stingley recorded nearly 2,000 receiving yards in his first four seasons and 16 total touchdowns. But in a 1978 preseason game against the Oakland Raiders, he collided with Jack Tatum, lowering his helmet into Tatum's shoulder. The hit compressed Stingley's spinal cord and broke multiple vertebrae. He was stricken to a wheel chair the rest of his life and passed away in 2007.
The Big Red Head played in over 60 games a season just three times his entire career. Marred by injuries his first two years, Walton led his team to an NBA championship in 1977 and was named Finals MVP. A broken foot the following season spelled the beginning of the end for Walton as a dominant centre. He alternated between the court and the infirmary room for several seasons before being rejuvenated in 1986 as the Boston Celtics' Sixth Man of the Year. But more ankle problems ended Walton's career for good in 1990.
Bo knows injuries. The two-sport stud athlete hit home runs in the summer and stiff-armed opponents in the winter. But a hip injury in a 1990 playoff game versus Cincinnati ended Jackson's football career immediately. He was able to continue his baseball career but Jackson never regained the unparalleled speed he once possessed.
Sharpe immediately set the league on fire, leading the NFL in receptions three of his first five seasons. But the five-time Pro Bowl selection suffered a neck injury in 1994 that abruptly ended his career. Analysts still speculate a healthy Sharpe could have rivaled Jerry Rice's career numbers. His brother agrees. At his Hall of Fame induction speech, Shannon Sharpe pleaded for Sterling's acceptance as well.
Aikman had a long, illustrious twelve-year career with the Cowboys. But if it wasn't for suffering 10 concussions, the three-time Super Bowl winner may have had a shot at a couple more. He was waived just one day before being due a $70 million extension. After failing to find another team willing to take a chance on the injury-prone quarterback, Aikman retired in 2001.
From a sixth round selection to an NFL MVP, Davis' rise to prominence was nearly as quick as his fall. After helping John Elway win back-to-back Super Bowls with the Broncos, Davis played just 17 more games in his career. He blew out his knee in 1999 and suffered several season-ending injuries before hanging up his cleats in 2002.
Prior was the saviour of the Chicago Cubs. At least that's what fans assumed. He combined with Kerry Wood to form one of baseball's dominating duos and led the Cubs to within five outs of a World Series appearance in just his second season. But a collision with Marcus Giles on the basepath, followed by taking a 117-mph line drive off his elbow, began a slew of injuries that effectively ended his career. Prior has appeared in just nine games since 2006 and unsuccessfully attempted several comebacks, most recently with the New York Yankees.
Taken with the second selection in the 2002 NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls, Williams' career lasted a single year. The promising combo guard suffered a serious motorcycle accident prior to his sophomore season. He severed a nerve in his leg and tore major knee ligaments. The Bulls waived him when it became obvious he could not return to action. After a 2006 comeback attempt proved unsuccessful, Williams said he had no plans to return to basketball.
Ming is considered one of the most important players in basketball history. As much for his play on the court as for his contributions off it. An eight-time all-star, the 7-6 centre missed just two games his first three seasons. But a foot infection led to chronic injuries and a litany of missed games. After another stress fracture forced him to miss most of the 2010 season, Ming announced his retirement on July 20, 2011.
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