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Peyton Manning admits to tanking baseline concussion tests

2011 NFL Pro Bowl

HONOLULU - JANUARY 30: Peyton Manning, #18 of the Indianapolis Colts, handles the ball during the 2011 NFL Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium on January 30, 2011 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)

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Alex Marvez of, who has been embroiled in a hair-growing contest with Tom Brady for which Marvez got a multiple-year head start, recently reported that players privately have told Dr. Daniel Amen that they tank their baseline concussions tests so that it will be easier to get clearance to play again after suffering a concussion.

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, in a joint interview with his brother Eli and his father Archie, admits to such tanking.

“They have these new [brain] tests we have to take,” Peyton said. “Before the season, you have to look at 20 pictures and turn the paper over and then try to draw those 20 pictures. And they do it with words, too. Twenty words, you flip it over, and try to write those 20 words. Then, after a concussion, you take the same test and if you do worse than you did on the first test, you can’t play. So I just try to do badly on the first test.”

There’s a chance that Peyton was joking. But is cracking heads a topic on which players should be cracking wise, given what we are learning, seemingly every day, about the potential consequences of chronic head trauma in sports (not just football, either)? If the remark was made in jest (and if so the humor escaped the interviewer, Rick Reilly, who didn’t characterize Peyton as joking -- and who nonchalantly teased the topic at the top of the column), it reminds us of Brett Favre’s lame attempt during a 2009 interview with NBC’s Cris Collinsworth to poke fun at the issue.

“People have asked me how many concussion I’ve had,” Favre said, “and I say, ‘I don’t remember.’”

Maybe joking about it is one of the ways that players who consciously assume the risk of serious health issues cope with the situation. But it still sends an unfortunate message to kids who are too young to fully appreciate the risks -- but old enough to be sufficiently hard-headed to insist on playing football.

Meanwhile, it would have been nice to see at least one question directed to Peyton regarding his role as a named plaintiff in the landmark antitrust litigation that has been on the front burner of NFL news for the past few weeks. Apparently, it was more interesting to talk about the ESPN commercial he and Peyton and Archie did years ago.