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Stretching The Field

Nov. 05, 2012
Nov. 05, 2012

Table of Contents
Nov. 5, 2012

THE MAIL
LEADING OFF
NFL MIDSEASON REPORT
WORLD SERIES
COLLEGE FOOTBALL
MMA
RORY MCILROY
  • NOW THAT HE HAS ASCENDED TO THE TOP OF THE GOLF WORLD—IN THE RANKINGS AND OUTSIDE THE ROPES—GLOBE-TROTTING RORY MCILROY IS QUICKLY LEARNING WHAT LIFE'S LIKE AS THE GAME'S MOST MARKETABLE PLAYER

Departments

Stretching The Field

A bit of investment advice—double down on physical therapy—has added years (and millions) to Peyton Manning's portfolio

All the buzz this season surrounding Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has been about his brilliant recovery from four neck surgeries over the past two years. But to learn why, at 36, he's on pace to throw for the most yards (4,830) in his 14-year career, you have to go back before the operations, to a conversation he had with Trace Armstrong, a former Pro Bowl defensive end who played for the Bears, Dolphins and Raiders. Armstrong had just retired, and the subject was investments. Real estate? Bonds? Restaurants? Armstrong, known among his peers as a forward thinker, didn't have much advice on those. "The greatest investment you can make," he said, "is in your body. The opportunity to extend your career is huge."

This is an article from the Nov. 5, 2012 issue

Huge for Manning is $58 million—$18 million this year on a new Denver contract, plus $40 million guaranteed in 2013 and '14 if his neck passes muster with Broncos doctors following the season. Which, with the way he is playing, has to be considered very likely. Contributing to Manning's resurgence has been intense neck rehab and a new concentration on his diet. Broncos nutritionist Bryan Snyder directs Manning's cook on what to prepare for him on which days (Thursday is pasta night), and accompanies Manning on walks through the team cafeteria. "It's, 'You can have one piece of that, two pieces of this,'" Manning says, "like you would with a child." Through the first half of his 14th season, Snyder's parental supervision is working.

But most important in Peyton's resurgence has been his maniacal body upkeep with two Denver musculature gurus. Last season in Indianapolis, while Manning was fruitlessly racing to prepare his body to play following September neck-fusion surgery, he would pay every week to fly in Greg Roskopf, a Denver-based specialist in cutting-edge Muscle Activation Techniques—finding muscles that have been traumatized or strained and strengthening other muscles to compensate—who had become popular with veterans such as former Broncos safety John Lynch, a friend of Manning's. "There were weeks my arm was dead, and [Roskopf] was instrumental in rebooting my body," says Lynch. (Later, Lynch would be influential in getting Manning to sign with Denver, reminding the QB "what a tremendous luxury" it would be to play where Roskopf was located.)

Today the Broncos still employ Roskopf and Michael Leahy, a Colorado Springs--based specialist in another branch of muscular science, Active Release therapy, to see players weekly—but Manning piles on more. On Mondays he has a 75-minute deep-tissue massage and a 30-minute stretch; on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays he sees Roskopf for painful but effective treatments at his office; and then on game days he spends 20 to 30 minutes with Leahy for more work.

"There are gurus all over," says Manning. "Tom Brady's got a guru. If you get to this age and you're trying to keep playing, you need help. Everybody has a masseuse, but most guys do more now. Last year, when I flew Roskopf to Indianapolis, I was paying him what he'd make all day for his appointments in Denver. But if he helps me extend my career by two years, with two more years of salary, it's well worth it."

Manning's right that he's not alone. "I get Active Release therapy every Wednesday," says 35-year-old Chargers linebacker Takeo Spikes, "to go along with massage and chiropractic on Monday and Friday. Soft-tissue care has been huge for my career."

If that all seems like a little much, don't knock it. For Spikes, who hasn't missed a game since November 2009, and for Manning, who looks more and more like Peyton in his prime, the maddening attention to detail is paying dividends.

THE PROLONG-SHOTS

Peter King's All--Old Guys team includes 12 thirtysomethings who have earned a Pro Bowl trip in the last four years, and (it should come as no surprise) five Broncos

OFFENSE

36 SHANE LECHLER

P, RAIDERS

31 WILLIS MCGAHEE

RB, BRONCOS

42 JASON HANSON

K, LIONS

36 BOBBIE WILLIAMS

OL, RAVENS

37 JEFF SATURDAY

OL, PACKERS

36 MATT BIRK

OL, RAVENS

35 STEVE HUTCHINSON

OL, TITANS

35 JEFF BACKUS

OL, LIONS

37 LONDON FLETCHER

LB, REDSKINS

37 KEITH BROOKING

LB, BRONCOS

34 BRIAN URLACHER

LB, BEARS

35 TAKEO SPIKES

LB, CHARGERS

DEFENSE

35 RANDY MOSS

WR, 49ERS

36 BRANDON STOKLEY

WR, BRONCOS

36 PEYTON MANNING

QB, BRONCOS

36 TONY GONZALEZ

TE, FALCONS

37 DONALD DRIVER

WR, PACKERS

36 VONNIE HOLLIDAY

DE, CARDINALS

35 CASEY HAMPTON

DT, STEELERS

34 JUQUA PARKER

DE, BROWNS

35 ANTOINE WINFIELD

CB, VIKINGS

37 RONDE BARBER

S, BUCCANEERS

36 CHARLES WOODSON

S, PACKERS

34 CHAMP BAILEY

CB, BRONCOS

THE SECRETS OF THEIR SUCCESS

ANTOINE WINFIELD, 35

VIKINGS CORNERBACK

"The team takes care of me on Wednesdays and Thursdays—I don't do much at all at practice—and I take care of them on Sundays. Coaches are smarter about taking care of players. They've eliminated the grind. In the off-season I work harder than I used to. I jump off a lot of boxes."

CHARLES WOODSON, 36

PACKERS SAFETY

"Boxing's big for me. I don't spar. I don't take shots. But that's the perfect high-energy workout for a football player. I think it's going to help me play two, three, four more years. There's no question I can play that long."

SHANE LECHLER, 36

RAIDERS PUNTER

"I've stopped punting so much during the week. I used to punt 100-plus balls—now I don't punt at all on Thursdays, maybe 10 balls on Fridays. My leg feels better on Sundays. I eat a lot smarter now too. I want to punt until they drag me off the field."

LONDON FLETCHER, 37

REDSKINS LINEBACKER

"I'm not a health-food guy. I don't take supplements. The keys: I get more rest than ever. Don't bother me when I'm resting. And play recognition. Nothing surprises me. Every scheme, every play, I've seen and recognize it."

JEFF SATURDAY, 37

PACKERS CENTER

"Playing till 40? Not out of the question. How we take care of players with all the new rules—reducing the hitting in practice, no more two-a-days, taking some of the violence out of the game—will allow good players to stay at their peak longer."

PHOTOPETER READ MILLER (MANNING)PHOTOJOE ROBBINS/GETTY IMAGES (WINFIELD)PHOTOGREG NELSON (WOODSON)PHOTOSTEVE MITCHELL/US PRESSWIRE (LECHLER)PHOTOTOM DIPACE (FLETCHER)PHOTOJOHN BIEVER (SATURDAY)