The Indianapolis Colts could be in for a long, tough season if star quarterback Peyton Manning misses an extended period. Manning underwent his third neck operation in the past 19 months on Sept. 8 and could be out for the whole season. The four-time MVP had made 227 straight starts and hadn’t missed a game in 14 years before sitting out the Colts’ season-opening 34-7 loss to Houston on Sept. 11.

The rehabilitation time alone is expected to be two months, but doctors and club officials said they don’t really have a clue when he’ll return to the club. In the meantime, the 35-year-old Manning will be kept on the Colts’ active roster. However, ex-NFL’er Coy Wire had a similar operation in the past and he said he had to wait six months before he could participate in contract drills.

If Indianapolis put Manning on the season-ending injury list they would be able to open a roster spot up, but Manning wouldn’t be eligible to play at all this season. That’s not really something the Colts wanted to do, especially with the Super Bowl being held in Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium next February.

It was reported that Manning tried to find a fix for his cervical problem all over America, but surgery was eventually recommended and decided on. He needed an anterior fusion operation as he was suffering from nerve problems following his last surgery back in May. Doctors who are familiar with the procedure said the recovery time is usually between eight and 10 weeks, but Manning could miss the season considering it’s his second operation in the last five months. If he did recover in 10 weeks, he could be back by mid-November.

Dr. Andrew Hecht, who treats players from the New York Islanders of the NHL and the New York Jets, said some people heal faster than others and he doesn’t think the operation will have a negative effect on Manning’s career once he’s healed. Manning obviously plans on playing for a few more years as he signed a contract in July that’s set to pay him $90 million over the next five years.

The Colts have newly-signed Kerry Collins in the lineup for insurance and it’s unclear if they’ll look for a replacement for Manning. The team’s results will probably have a bearing on that, but the club said they’re not interested in David Garrard, who was let go recently by the Jaguars.

For Manning personally it’s been a bit of a strange year with the lockout and the surgeries, which meant he couldn’t workout with his teammates during the offseason. He finally started workouts on Aug. 29, but complained of a sore back after a week.

When Manning’s in the lineup, the Colts are a Super Bowl contender, but without him the team could struggle, like they did against the Texans in the season opener. In that game, Collins became the only other quarterback to start for the Colts since Jim Harbaugh played for them week before Christmas back in 1997. Since then, it’s been all Manning.

He was drafted number one overall in 1998 and has led Indianapolis to 11 post-season appearances, eight division titles, two AFC crowns and a Super Bowl championship.


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