The Hit that Started it All
March 2, 2012 3 Comments
In 2006, the Indianapolis Colts were playing host to the Washington Redskins. I personally was in attendance. Midway through the second quarter, Peyton Manning took the worst hit I have ever seen him take (which is basically every hit he has taken in the NFL). Though he was down for only a few seconds, it seemed like hours. You could feel the entire RCA Dome holding their breath.
After a timeout to shake off the cobwebs, Manning quickly returned to his normal form. He threw 3 touchdowns following that and the Colts won. But that hit started an injury that would culminate in Manning sitting out the entire 2011 season and his imminent departure from Indianapolis.
Last fall, former Colts coach Tony Dungy acknowledged it:
“Earlier in the game, I’m outraged that there was a flag for roughing-the-passer on Dwight Freeney for just grazing the quarterback’s helmet. So I’m yelling at the ref [Scott Green], ‘Where’s the flag! Where’s the flag!’ And I don’t yell much, but I did then. So I didn’t notice Peyton calling timeout and being shaken up. Peyton came to the sideline and said to [backup] Jim Sorgi, ‘Jim, start warming up.’ As the timeout went on, he said to us, ‘I can stay in, but we need to run the ball here.’ ”
“Then we sort of forgot about it at halftime, and Peyton seemed fine. He lit it up in the second half. He was on fire [throwing for 244 yards and three touchdowns]. But that’s the year we started cutting back on his throws at practice. I’m not putting two plus two together. I just figure he’s getting older and he needs some time off, he’s made enough throws. But now, as I look back on it, there’s no doubt in my mind that this was the start of his neck problems.”
The Redskins’ defensive coordinator at the time was Gregg Williams. Today it was learned that the Saints, under Williams, had a bounty system going on, basically paying players for injuring their opponents. The Saints employed the strategy in their super bowl winning 2009 playoffs, where they hit Kurt Warner and Brett Favre repeatedly, and tried to do the same to Peyton.
It is very likely that Williams used a similar system while with Washington. And so it is also likely that they had a bounty on Peyton Manning for the game in 2006. [Other teams probably had bounties on Peyton Manning as well. Dungy says the Titans did.]
Because of Gregg Williams’ cheating, Colts fans may have lost a few years of Peyton Manning. We will never know for sure what would have happened, but it seems very possible.
Below is a video of the hit, courtesy of Nate Dunlevy: