Words aren't necessary. The horror alone Monday is reasonably glaring perceptions in which Peyton Manning shouldn't be permitted to start in the season-opener. The first instinct is to figure he won't be playing anytime soon and it is very likely his iron-man streak is coming to an end.

It is true, however, all good things must come to an end, but it is certain that he never expected for it to end because of an injury to limit his capabilities on Sundays. He is a frustrated maestro caught in a whirlwind from an everlasting media circus who is the face of the Indianapolis Colts, in which he is the endearing icon within a community where the population heavily embraces the godlike hero.

There is the god of football, when he's not really the god of football, after all -- but the epicenter of sports in America. He is the pass thrower everyone believes in, an athlete we can revere and endorse as our favorite hero, which is the explanation for 24/7 news coverage as the nation wonders about his health status for Sundays season opener. Without him, if he's not ready physically or mentally to play come Sunday, the Colts truly will reveal a football identity never discovered during the Manning regime.

A loyal city can suffer in despair with the absence of Manning, deprived of an iconic figure whose heroics played a huge role for the Colts in previous seasons. As in one of the smallest towns in Indiana, the die-hards are inhaling and holding their collective breaths, worried greatly about Manning's health. In many respected ways, he brought much exhilaration to the city, rapidly emerging as one of the greatest players to ever stand on turf at the toughest and most dignified position in sports.

He is admired so that we tend to forget he is nothing more than human like the rest of us, although he's ultimately a fantasy owner's best friend or even the most accomplished athlete we all recognize so well. But this year, he's doubtful for the season-opener in Sunday's game against Houston and the team announced today that Colts top player began feeling soreness in his back last weekend.

His rehabilitation from off-season neck surgery has been slower than imagined and, for once in his career, he is in jeopardy of missing his first game in his 14th season, having started 208 regular-season games straight -- including 19 more in the playoffs. He has attained historic plateaus no other quarterback in the NFL has ever accomplished, reaching two Super Bowls, winning a lone title, earning individual achievements and elevating his Hall of Fame status.

Without Manning, the Colts are limited, harmless and could be doomed in an erratic division where the Houston Texans are likely favorites to prevail in the AFC South, now that Manning is ailing and inactive listed doubtful when he has not fully recovered from neck surgery.

Because he has started since he was a rookie in 1998, it seems very strange he could actually miss his first game since high school, a streak no player in the league has came close to matching as he has always been essential to the Colts' success. Before he can smile or work harder than ever in preparations, he can only look weary, disgusted and frustrated, not fully healthy and could potentially have a setback if he's brought back too early without monitoring or evaluating the injured veteran.

He is, evidently aging and debilitating by his ailing body -- incapable in performing at his very best -- even if Manning has the body of work, given his incredible plateaus he set as one of the finest quarterbacks to reach such a peak in a team sport.

With him calling audibles in command as the leader of the offensive team, accountable for directing all the plays offensively, when he was clearly handed the playbook, the Colts have appeared in the playoffs 12 times of Manning's 14-year tenure, all with the lone franchise, including the last nine.

For all Colts' players, the season is uncertain if Manning doesn't return as quickly as possible, wondering precisely whether or not the team can prevail without him, wondering what would Indianapolis be without him. With less than a week to rehab, which isn't logical from what it seems, he won't be healthy in time for the season-opener, he'll be painfully glancing from the sideline inactive.

For the first time in his spectacular career, he'll spend time with the clipboard and earpiece, recovering from a neck injury when he honestly thought and had in mind that he'd be back in time for the beginning of the season. This season Manning, who is still recuperating from a disk in his neck and has been feeble and inefficient after he was cleared to practice for just one week, is entering with much uncertainty listed doubtful.

Now he has been ineffective in practice and has a diminutive measure of improvement in his rehabilitation that has slowed, no longer the Peyton Manning we were once familiar in seeing on the field every Sunday, an intimidating thrower with plenty of weapons around him.

He was returning to normalcy to potentially be robust to start the regular season as a supreme quarterback and main ingredient in the Colts' potent offense, but doctors were consulted and suggested that Manning's inactiveness could extend further into the season.

By Sunday, he just wishes he can have a speedy recovery and produce multiple wins for the Colts, to carry the classy franchise to the postseason and, even greater -- if imaginable, the Super Bowl in which Manning can have a chance in winning his second Super Bowl championship. As we are aware already -- in the history of quarterbacks -- Manning is fittingly deserving of standing in the company of nifty quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL.

We all realize he's a very good, crafty, well-rounded player, so of course he'll be missed, but it's not worth risking a career-threatening injury or worse a life-threatening disaster for one of the all-time greats. It is his health that really matters, not winning football games for the Colts. Make no mistake, he's a much-needed element in the Colts' offense, but more than ever, his health is more vital than steering Indianapolis to the Super Bowl.

What good is Manning if he suffers a career-threatening injury, what good is he if he has a setback and miss the remainder of this season?? There is just too much being made about Manning's absence, for what has literally turned into a media circus, hijacking headlines in the local newspapers in Indianapolis and even nationally he's chronicled on television and online.

By the way, much of this is from fans when Manning is clearly the symbol of the league, if not one of the world's most interesting men after fans boosted his ego and popularity. Let's face it, he comes from an indigenous culture of his football-oriented family, the son of the legendary Archie Manning, who introduced his boys, Peyton and Eli, to football during their youth.

If Manning can't play, then the un-retired Kerry Collins takes his place as the starter, also capable of bringing leadership based on his experience and poise. The all-pro quarterback, an NFL four-time most valuable player, is bothered by a neurological recovery.

For once, the Colts -- who usually are vague about releasing the specifics on injured players -- issued a statement and said that Manning's rehabilitation is "slowed." As for his coach, Jim Caldwell, he described Manning's steak as "an incredible feat."

"He's been an ironman; there's no other way to put it," Caldwell said Monday. "It's doubtful that he plays this week, but it takes a very unusual individual to have that streak."

At age 35, Manning is having it hard with these unexpected speculations, a frustrating development that he hasn't handled too well, battling with the most severe injury of his remarkable career. The question is now: Will he ever be able to perform efficiently and productively without his body giving out on him?

In the meantime, he's amusingly missed only one game because of an injury in his career, leaving a game against Miami in 2001 when he suffered a broken jaw but returned shortly after. That brings us to the moment he had surgery in mid-July to remove an infected bursa sac in his knee and missed much of training camp and all of preseason.

But this injury here is totally a different story, not so minor like his prior injuries. He's frustrated and irritable, but more than ever, helpless if he doesn't play and owner Jim Irsay truly believes in Manning, which explains why he addressed a new contract to lock the franchise megastar into a long-term deal, signing him to a five-year, $90 million deal. It's not a waste, and so far it's a disappointment, not only to the Colts faithful or the front office but Manning, too. And from what has been heard, it's not good apparently that he's slowed in his recovery.

"If he has specific weakness in a muscle group, that means whatever intervention that he's had done was probably not completely adequate to address the problem that he has," said Dr. Ty Thaiyananthan, neurosurgeon and co-medical director of the Chapman Neurosurgical and Spine Institute in Orange.

It's understandable, dating back to the summer, that Manning was upset and frustrated when he wasn't allowed to meet with trainers during the lockout, so he took his rehabilitation slowly while working with unusual faces.

There was no need to even think about the backup quarterback position if Manning was healthy, but now Collins is the last resort, learning the Colts' playbook less than two weeks. And maybe now that the Colts' rush attack, a team that once consisted of an innocuous ground game and ranked 28th in rushing attempts and 29th in yards, could come to their aid with Joseph Addai and Donald Brown. For years, the Colts depended on Manning and he has produced, but now he doesn't have good health benefits. It would be interesting to see whether the Colts survive or wilt without Manning if he's not available.

I often wonder.


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