It's sometimes easy to forget, but two years ago some doubted that Denver quarterback Peyton Manning would ever play again, thanks to multiple neck surgeries. Now he's the most respected player in the NFL because he has kept going, at an MVP-level no less.
That's why I have no problem with him being named the most respected player in our NFL Nation survey of 320 players. He was the runaway winner with Tom Brady coming in second by 62 votes.
Whether you think Brady is better than Manning is irrelevant here. Brady has done quite a bit with much less this season. But to return from the injuries Manning suffered is remarkable. There was no blueprint for Manning to follow in coming back from four neck surgeries, unlike, say, a torn ACL that many have suffered. The latter is bad, too, and it changes careers.
But Manning has flourished since his return despite an arm that isn't as strong as in the past. He can do so because of his intense preparation, another reason why he's so respected. Yes, he has talent around him, too. They help him look good; he's helped them be great. Even if Denver loses Sunday none of this will change.
Redskins angle: No surprise, but London Fletcher received 11 votes, which was tied for sixth with Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Fletcher earned those votes for his stellar career and, like Manning, for the way he prepared. To play every game of an NFL career at the position he played is a phenomenal achievement. I've written this before, but Fletcher was the most respected voice in the defensive meeting rooms at Redskins Park. Players trusted him.
Robert Griffin III also received two votes. Though he did not have as good a second season as anyone wanted, the fact that he returned when he did and remained healthy for 13 games until his benching clearly impressed other NFL players. They also saw some of the hits he endured -- and got back up from.