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It feels like it’s been a while since we did our last report on the minutiae of Peyton Manning’s recovery. Remember that pleasant early March Saturday morning when a grainy cell phone video of Manning throwing a football first surfaced, and later we learned that he was really throwing cats? Good times.

That video shot through the Internet’s vast system of screens and wires six weeks ago. That’s a long time in the football world, especially during this offseason. Over the past six weeks we’ve had the normal mid March free agency madness in addition to Manning getting released and signed, Tim Tebow was traded, the punishments were announced for the Saints’ Bountygate stupidity, and a locker room tape that contained Gregg Williams sounding like a frothy dog surfaced.

So forgive us if we sort of forgot about that neck problem of yours, Peyton. What exactly was the problem again? Something about Zoolander? One of the best quarterbacks of our time and, well, ever couldn’t throw, or at least he couldn’t throw like Peyton Manning. From the moment he was released by Indy, Manning’s unique and rare injury made every sensible mind wonder exactly what the team that signed him would be investing in, and if they’d get the full return on said investment.

I still firmly believe that Manning will be effective and he’ll be a difference maker, but we won’t see the same Manning next fall, and we never will. I base that on no medical experience whatsoever, and instead am relying on good old fashioned common sense. Combine the natural aging process with his four neck surgeries over a short time period, and you have the recipe for a gradual fade at the very least.

But don’t tell that to Eric Decker. The young Broncos wide receiver caught balls from Manning during his first official practice yesterday, and he says Manning’s arm looks just fine.

“Everyone’s obviously going to get better from this point to September, but I’m not his doctor, so I don’t know how to speak on his health, but catching balls form him, it looks like there’s nothing wrong to me. He’s throwing great balls; he’s getting the work in just like we’re getting the work in and knocking some rust off. I see no issues at this point.”

The Broncos’ first regular-season game is just less than five months away. If Manning came make this kind of steady progress in just six weeks, he’s well on his way to silencing a lot of critics. Like, say, me.

Of course, there’s still the small matter of making those same quality throws while facing a pass rush with guys who want to hit him really hard for the first time in well over a year.

And now you want to know the rest of the story…

  • Ever wonder which teams rush the best between the different gaps? Of course you did. [Pro Football Focus]
  • Let’s tap into your inner X’s and O’s nerd a little further with Chris Brown’s thorough analysis of overload blitzes and angle stunts. [Smart Football]
  • Asante Samuel is quite happy in Philadelphia. [Eagles.com]
  • Manning smiled and said nice things about playing football in Denver after his first official practice. Then he went home and bathed in money. [Shutdown Corner]
  • Six draft lessons from Bill Walsh. [Michael Lombardi]
  • Jason Jones is doing something that any intelligent NFL player should do: at 25 years old, he’s already preparing for life after the NFL. [Scout.com]
  • Despite fielding a promising young team and making the playoffs, the Bengals still had a significant amount of their home games blacked out. Will the Browns become the next Bengals after forcing their fan base to suffer through years of mismanagement and misery? [Cleveland Plain Dealer]
  • Staying with the misery of Cleveland, are the Browns overrating their running backs? [Waiting for Next Year]
  • Quinton Coples has seen his stock fall recently, but as always that depends on which mock you’re reading during any given minute. At one time it seemed unlikely that he’d still be around for the Jets at No. 16, but Rex Ryan is still doing his due diligence. [The Jets Blog]