Peyton Manning’s right thumbnail, covered with white tape, went under the media microscope upon his return to the football field Wednesday.
The tape didn’t wrap all the way around his thumb, leaving him able to grip a football as he normally does, and teammates said his throws and handoffs at practice were unaffected by his injury in his first action since smacking his throwing hand on a defender’s helmet Sunday night.
For the first time, Denver coach John Fox listed the 36-year-old quarterback on the team’s injury report — “Peyton Manning, right thumb” — but Fox said he noticed no lingering effects.
Manning, who threw two second-half touchdowns in Denver’s 34-14 win over New Orleans after getting hurt just before halftime, said after practice that his thumb was “sore, but it’s more of an irritant than anything else.”
The discolored right thumbnail on the four-time MVP who’s playing like he’s hungry for a fifth is certainly a big deal in media circles, both traditional and social.
Manning acknowledged he was “probably a little bit lucky” that he banged the nail and not the knuckle of his right thumb on New Orleans defensive end Martez Wilson’s helmet.
Another half-inch, and all bets would have been off for the rolling Broncos (4-3), who lead the AFC West and look every bit like a team ready to take off.
Another half-inch, and the offense would have been turned over to rookie Brock Osweiler or third-string veteran Caleb Hanie.
“They say it’s a game of inches,” wide receiver Eric Decker said. “Maybe it’s a game of centimeters.”
EAGLES WILL STICK WITH MICHAEL VICK
Michael Vick will remain the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Coach Andy Reid announced the decision Wednesday. Vick, the four-time Pro Bowl quarterback, has struggled this season and Philadelphia (3-4) has lost three straight games.
Reid didn’t endorse Vick after Sunday’s 30-17 loss to Atlanta, saying he’s going to evaluate all his starters. That led to speculation and several media reports that Vick’s days were numbered. But Reid is sticking with Vick over rookie Nick Foles.
VILMA BRIEF INCLUDES EX-COACH’S EMAIL
The attorney for New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma has filed a court brief in the Saints bounty case with an email from a former assistant coach who called the Saints a “dirty organization.”
The email from Mike Cerullo to NFL spokesman Greg Aiello is part of a motion that seeks to block former commissioner Paul Tagliabue from hearing appeals of the alleged program to pay for injury-producing hits. Vilma claims that Cerullo had a vendetta against Saints interim coach Joe Vitt after being fired.
Cerullo’s email, dated Nov. 2, 2011, tells Aiello that he has information on Vitt lying to an NFL investigator about a bounty program “along with proof!!” Cerullo was fired by the Saints after the 2009 season, which Vilma claims led him to seek revenge against Vitt and the Saints.
The possible showdown between rookie quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Ryan Tannehill might not happen, because there is a possibility that the Dolphins’ Tannehill won’t play Sunday against Luck’s Colts. Tannehill left Miami’s victory over the Jets in the first quarter with left knee and thigh injuries, and he practiced on a limited basis Wednesday. … Colts tight end Coby Fleener (shoulder) and cornerback Vontae Davis (knee) will not play against the Dolphins. … Redskins receiver Pierre Garon (foot) and safety Brandon Meriweather (knee) are unlikely to play Sunday against the Panthers. … Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders said he has been asked to meet with NFL officials to discuss his timely leg cramp in a victory over the Bengals. Sanders maintains he did nothing wrong when he suddenly dropped to the ground with the Steelers nursing a late lead and the play clock winding down. Officials stopped play, and television announcers suggested the receiver was faking it to save a timeout.
KANSAS CITY (1-6) AT SAN DIEGO (3-4)
5:20 p.m., NFL Network
LINE: Chargers by 8.
KEY STATS: Kansas City, which has lost four straight games, is the first team since at least 1940 to go through its first seven games without ever holding a lead in regulation. The Chiefs’ only win came when Ryan Succop kicked the winning field goal in overtime to beat New Orleans. … San Diego hasn’t scored a touchdown in its past six quarters. … The Chargers have won four straight at home vs. Kansas City. … The Chiefs are last in the NFL with a minus-18 turnover differential.
THE BUZZ: San Diego has lost three straight games since starting 3-1, looking progressively worse in each outing. A 7-6 loss last week at Cleveland was the low point – unless, that is, the Chargers manage to lose at home to Kansas City. The Chargers’ passing game is falling apart, and they’ve struggled to stop teams from throwing the ball. They also have trouble protecting Philip Rivers. The Chiefs, though, have committed a stunning 25 turnovers – eight more than any other AFC team. And they’ll be starting Matt Cassel at quarterback because Brady Quinn is out with a concussion. Cassel’s passer rating of 69.0 is next-to-last in the NFL among qualifying quarterbacks.
THE PICK: Chargers, 26-13.McClatchy news services