The day after his son tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes in the Denver Broncos' 49-27 season-opening victory against the Baltimore Ravens, Archie Manning said he was concerned Peyton Manning never would play again after his series of neck surgeries, adding that his throws in the early days of rehab were limited to "a 10-yard lob."
In a taped interview to be aired on ESPN Radio's "The Ian O'Connor Show" on Sunday morning, Archie conceded his 37-year-old son doesn't have the same arm strength he had in his prime but that he does appear stronger than he did last year.
The neck injury cost Peyton the entire 2011 season in Indianapolis and, ultimately, his job with the Colts.
"Certainly there was a time there we were concerned if he would play at all," Archie said. "And I think the big thing, we're all elated and happy for Peyton because he wanted to play some more and the doctors cleared him.
"But I guess what I didn't know about is having to leave Indianapolis and kind of that comfort and all those years and starting over again. To me, that was kind of the hard part, and also dealing, as he's stated, he's not as strong. His arm's not as strong [after] all the surgeries, and getting older. So we didn't really know what to expect."
In 2012, after missing the previous season following fusion surgery to repair a damaged nerve, Manning led the Broncos to a 13-3 record and threw for 4,659 yards and 37 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. On Thursday night, Manning shredded the Ravens for 462 yards in becoming the sixth quarterback in league history, and the first in 44 years, to throw seven scoring passes in a game.
"I told him that when he came back, I said, 'Don't forget now, last year a 36-year-old quarterback is not going to throw it like a 26,'" said Archie, former quarterback of the New Orleans Saints. "And I guess there's exceptions there. But he doesn't have the arm strength that he had four and five years ago when he was playing for the Colts.
"But I only saw him throw up close and in person one time this summer at our football camp, and I thought his arm was definitely a little stronger than it was last summer when he threw at our camp. ... I don't think he expects to get back to where he was, but not many 37-year-olds throw it like they do when they're 27."
Peyton's multiple surgeries left his father and mother more concerned about their son's quality of life than the possible end of his NFL career.
"Over a year's time there ... one surgery after the other, as his parents, Olivia and I, we kind of quit thinking about football," Archie said. "We were just worried about Peyton's health and getting this thing straightened out.
"He finally had the fusion; they said it worked. Four different doctors cleared him to go back and play. ... They said he can go play. We didn't know how he could play at that position. I remember when he first started throwing, I mean, it was a 10-yard lob and you just don't know. And you wonder, 'Gosh, can he get back where he can throw in an NFL football game?'
"So I think Peyton feels blessed and fortunate. ... I don't think he takes any practice or any game or any time for granted. He loves to play the game, and he feels really grateful that he's getting to play some more."