How Duke helped Peyton Manning recover

April, 18, 2012
4/18/12
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Ryan McGee has a great story in the latest issue of ESPN The Magazine looking at how David Cutcliffe and the Durham, N.C., area played a strong role in Peyton Manning's recovery from a lost 2011 season.

Manning, of course, committed to Cutcliffe and Tennessee nearly two decades ago, when the Duke coach was the Volunteers' quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. The two have remained close over the years, and the Blue Devils' fenced-in practice facility became a lab of sorts for Manning and his NFL friends to help the four-time MVP recover from neck surgery.

Durham was, essentially, the city Manning inhabited.
As always, he found that center with Cutcliffe. Manning made the first of more than half a dozen visits to Durham just days after having neck surgery on Sept. 9, 2011, his fourth and final operation. He came to see Cutcliffe with rehab orders from his Indianapolis doctors in one hand and a football in the other. His old coach started building a plan to get him back on track.

Cutcliffe had assumed that, like most athletes facing their first serious injury, Manning would be tentative, throwing timidly out of fear of reinjury. But reality turned out to be the total opposite -- which was just as bad. The NFL season was starting without him for the first time in 14 years, and Manning came out gunning like a man who thought he could will his way back into the lineup within a couple of weeks. The result was a spaghetti pile of a throwing motion, the mechanics of a man in a hurry. "Almost immediately I started at zero," says Cutcliffe. "I said, 'Let's stop working on getting back and start working on getting healthy.' And the first step of that process was to get back in touch with his natural throwing motion."

Manning's body was way out in front of his arm, forcing his throws to catch up to his chest and legs instead of pushing through with them. For reference, Cutcliffe dug through the mountain of film he's kept on Manning over the years, much of which Manning had emailed to him each offseason with a note: "Hey, Coach, what do you think?"

The complete story is available here.

Matt Fortuna | email

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