Could Peyton Manning be in play for the Eagles?

The fans have spoken. The majority want Peyton Manning in Eagles green.

The message boards are abuzz, so too are talk radio lines. The common response to whether the Birds should sign Manning is: Why not? We got nothing to lose.

Manning underwent three procedures on his injured neck. The most recent, completed on Sept. 8, was a one-level cervical neck fusion. Basically, the surgeon removed the herniated disc, which relieved the pressure on the spine and nerves.

Dr. Andrew Hecht, co-chief of spine surgery at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York, has never met Manning. But he has performed the one-level cervical neck fusion procedure on several big-time athletes, including college-level quarterbacks.

“Athletes who have this operation, you have no increased risk by going back to sports once they are healed,” said Dr. Hecht, who is also a spine surgical consultant for the New York Jets. “If you look at all the patients that have this surgery, they would return to contact sports, almost without exception.”

Dr. Hecht was quick to stress that he is basing his prognosis on his own experiences with the procedure. From what he’s read about Manning’s situation, the QB has been cleared to play.

“From a medical standpoint, he should be OK to play,” Dr. Hecht said. “It’s Peyton Manning’s decision to make.”

Friends say Peyton plays

Coaches aren’t allowed to observe Manning until April, per the NFL’s new labor agreement.

However, the Colts’ medical staff is allowed since he failed his exit physical. Manning is due a $28 million option from the Colts by March 8. Or they can cut him.

Manning’s teammate, Jeff Saturday, has been in contact with him.

“He’ll be playing football, I can assure you that,” Saturday said. “I hope it’s here, but he’ll be playing somewhere.”

Why it makes sense for Birds

Eagles offensive line coach Howard Mudd served in the same capacity for much of Manning’s tenure in Indy. Mike Vick has struggled at times picking up Mudd’s system, especially making calls at the line of scrimmage.

Andy Reid comes under fire for his game-day coaching — from wasting timeouts, not deviating from his “script,” to not making halftime adjustments. Manning has always run flawless offenses and serves as coach on the field. He could shield Reid’s flaws.

If the Colts do indeed cut Manning by March 8, the Eagles wouldn’t have to give up anything to get him. There is the tricky thing of figuring out what to pay him — he’s due $28 million — but an aging QB coming off a very serious injury might be in the Birds’ budget.

Why it doesn’t make sense

Eagles signed Mike Vick to a six-year, $100 million deal last August. While the team can opt out of the contract after next season, the Birds would eat a $7 million signing bonus. And then they’d either have to find a trading partner or convince Vick to be a backup. Good luck.

Reid has been drooling over No. 7 since his days in Atlanta and now he has him in his stable. It would be really hard to see Reid giving up on his reclamation project. After all, Vick all but promised Big Red a ring last season.

No one knows how healthy Manning is, or if he can ever be the Super Bowl-winning QB he once was. It’s already been reported that Manning’s velocity is down and he has been having trouble throwing to his left and across his body.

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