Peyton Manning's rehabilitation from neck surgery has slowed enough that the Indianapolis Colts are holding the quarterback out of practice. In a statement released by the team Monday, the Colts said the quarterback's status for Sunday's opener will "likely be doubtful."
The team statement explained that Manning started to have soreness in his back over the weekend, which initially was thought to be a normal part of his rehabilitation regimen following May neck surgery. However, when the soreness continued, the Colts medical staff initiated tests and consulted with specialists. As that evaluation process continues, team doctors have decided that Manning will not practice.
With that, Sunday's opener against the Houston Texans could be the end of Manning's 227 consecutive games started streak, including the playoffs. It's the second-longest streak in NFL history for quarterbacks behind Brett Favre. Manning, the only four-time MVP in league history, has never missed a regular-season start.
"He's been an iron man," coach Jim Caldwell said. "There's no other way to put it. He's been there every step of the way. Obviously, it's doubtful he'll play this weekend as (the statement) says. Nevertheless, it takes a very unusual individual to be able to put that kind of string together."
The Colts remain in doubt as to when Manning will be able to play again, reports NFL Network's Jason La Canfora, citing team and league sources. The Colts activated Manning from the physically unable to perform list last week, four months after he had a procedure to repair a nerve in his neck.
Manning and the Colts are looking for more information as to why his recovery is taking this long. Sources told La Canfora there has been no additional surgical procedure scheduled.
"At the conclusion of the diagnostic process, if there are any new developments in the prognosis which we outlined for Peyton at the start of training camp we will report them," the team said. "As of now, Peyton continues to deal with a complicated neurological recovery, the end date of which is unpredictable."
Colts president Bill Polian said Sunday he knows nothing about a talk radio report that Manning needs a second neck surgery. The report originated from a Twitter update from 1070-AM The Fan in Indianapolis.
"Been told by multi sources that QB P Manning needs a 2nd neck procedure," the post read. "Will remain out indefinitely."
Polian responded when contacted by Sports Illustrated, saying "I don't know anything about that. I honestly don't."
When reached for comment by Indianapolis NBC affiliate WTHR, Manning's father, Archie Manning, declined comment.
Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted Sunday night,"There is nothing2say on Peyton's status except we move cautiously n deliberately on projecting, beyond day2day, his healing process n recovery."
If Manning cannot start, the job will likely fall to Kerry Collins. The Colts brought Collins, a 17-year veteran, out of retirement Aug. 17 after Irsay told fans to be prepared for the possibility of starting the season without Manning -- an unthinkable thought until now.
"It's not as if we're dealing with somebody that hasn't been in a lot of games," Caldwell said of Collins. "He's played, and he understands concepts and systems. I think he'll be able to function well. I don't expect him to be perfect. We have to have some other guys step up and give him some assitance here and there. We have a lot of guys that can do that."
Collins said he knew the possibility existed that he could end up starting this week and his preparation hasn't changed.
"I've been doing this for a long time. I know what it takes to get ready to play," Collins said. "Certainly in no way do I think I can replace someone like Peyton, what he means to this franchise, this city. "At the same time I've been doing this a long time. I guarantee I will bust my butt to get ready this week."
Collins' teammates have a similar level of confidence in his abilities.
"I've got full confidence that if he's the guy we'll be ready," center Jeff Saturday said. "Our mentality has always been next man up. I hate it for Peyton, but obviously we want him to get healthy and take care of himself."
On Aug. 20, Manning ruled himself out of the final two preseason games and acknowledged he would need "every bit" of the remaining time to be ready for the opener. Manning, however, did not even dress for Thursday night's preseason finale at Cincinnati and missed the entire preseason for only the second time in his career. He also sat out in 2008 after he needed surgery twice to remove an infected bursa sac in his left knee.
Manning struggled during the first half of that season before leading the Colts to nine consecutive wins, back to the playoffs, and picked up his third MVP award.