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Weinke: Manning will be 'just as good if not better'

On paper, the NFL careers of quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Chris Weinke are night and day. Manning is a legend, a four-time NFL MVP. Weinke, meanwhile, started a grand total of 20 games during a run that flamed out in 2007.

Weinke has watched from afar as Manning attempts to return to the field after four neck surgeries in two years, and believes his own comeback from spinal fusion surgery in November 1998 offers hope to the Colts star.

"I've spoken to Peyton early on in the process," Weinke told USA Today on Thursday. "My gut feeling: It's not a question of if he can get back healthy because it's already been proven it can happen because I went through it."

Questions surround Manning's health, with some wondering if he'll ever return to form, if he returns at all. Weinke believes we haven't seen the last of Manning.

"It comes down to Peyton and what he wants," Weinke said. "My gut tells me he wants to come back and play. My gut also tells me he's going to come back and be just as good if not better than he was prior to the surgery."

A key to Manning's return remains the regeneration of nerves in his right triceps muscle. Weinke waited for nerves to regenerate in his throwing arm after the Florida State passer was hit during a 1998 game against Virginia.

"I lost everything, full atrophy in my throwing arm. The nerves that control my right arm were damaged," Weinke said. "My head was awkward and I got involved in a head-on collision. I had total nerve regeneration. So I had to in essence re-teach myself to throw."

Weinke returned to win the Heisman Trophy in 2000, at age 28. What Manning will return to accomplish remains a mystery, but if Weinke's NFL career remains uninspiring, the fact he even made it that far offers a dose of hope to one future Hall of Famer.

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