This Story of Peyton Manning Taking Off His Equipment Drives Home Just How Broken Down He Is

18-years of NFL "bumps and bruises."

There comes a point in every NFL player's career where he has to decide what's more important to him: Becoming an all-time great, or not being in agonizing pain for the rest of his life. Peyton Manning passed that point about a decade ago. You've likely seen his not-so-subtle grimaces (and wounded duck throws) over the past few years, but this excerpt (from a soon-to-be-released issue of ESPN the Magazine) drives home just how miserable it can be to be the NFL's all-time leader in touchdown passes. Tell us, does this sound like a fun position to be in at the not-really-that-old-at-all age of 39?:

"IT TAKES PEYTON Manning 15 minutes to shed his suit of armor after a game.

He begins with his cleats, which he can barely untie without assistance. A Broncos equipment staffer helps peel them off his feet while he does a radio interview, because after nearly 25 years of football dating back to high school, it's a relief to not have to bend over that far. Next come his shoulder pads, which, when yanked over his head, generate a groan that is a mixture of suffering and sweet relief. Manning's pale arms and torso are covered in fresh scrapes and old bruises, some the color of strawberries, others a shade of eggplant.

His socks come off after several violent tugs, revealing toes that are twisted and bent into obtuse angles. When he removes a thick blue DonJoy knee brace from his stiff left leg, he twice pauses to grimace and gather himself before stripping it off and handing it to a staffer for safekeeping. As he slices away at the thick layers of athletic tape supporting his ankles, he looks like a surgeon operating on his own leg without anesthesia.

When he finishes, he stands, joints creaking, loose strips of tape and blades of grass still stuck to his skin. He has just completed a comeback win over the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 2, and a flood of text messages keeps pinging his phone, which has a picture of his 4-year-old twins, Marshall and Mosley, as his background. He can't resist reading a few and smirking with satisfaction. He drapes a towel over his shoulders, but the crooked pink scar on the back of his neck is still visible, evidence of the four neck surgeries he's had to repair a pinched nerve and herniated disks and to fuse his vertebrae. Because of the victory -- the 181st of his career -- Manning smiles as he limps gingerly in the direction of the showers. If this is what it feels like on a good night, only two games into his 18th year, try to imagine the bad ones."

Most people would blurt out "Yes!" if asked whether or not they would switch lives with Manning. A story like this would likely make many ponder that question a little more carefully.

[via ESPN]

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