Ever since radio personality Jon Michael Vincent of ESPN 1070 Indianapolis reported on Sunday that Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning would need another surgery, speculation has been running thick and fast about Manning's immediate future, and the possible end of a games started streak that goes back to Manning's rookie season of 1998.
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The team eliminated speculation by releasing the following statement Monday morning, and by listing Manning as "doubtful" to play Sunday against the Houston Texans in Houston:
During the last week, the rate of improvement in Peyton's rehabilitation process slowed. Over the weekend Peyton experienced soreness in his back. It was originally thought to be a normal reaction to his rehabilitation regimen. When the soreness persisted, the Colts medical team decided to initiate diagnostic tests and to consult with a number of specialists around the country who have been involved in Peyton's case from the outset. That process continues. As a result of the most recent development the doctors have decided that Peyton will not practice. His participation therefore, in Sunday's game versus Houston will likely be doubtful. We will update his playing status as required by NFL policy as the week goes on.
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. As of now Peyton continues to deal with a complicated neurological recovery, the end date of which is unpredictable.
As was stated at the outset, it serves no useful purpose to speculate about hypothetical outcomes. When and if there are concrete medical facts to report we will do so."
Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders notes that no player listed as "doubtful" played in that same week last season, and no Colts player listed as "doubtful" has played in that same week since 2003.
Manning, who signed a five-year, $90 million contract extension this offseason, had a procedure done in May to repair a disc-related injury in his neck. Recent reports indicated that Manning has been contending with increasing back soreness. He has not been able to practice at full strength since the Colts took him off the preseason physically unable to perform list on Aug. 29, and the signing of veteran quarterback Kerry Collins was an obvious stopgap if Manning couldn't go.
"I'm right in the middle of it — working very hard every single day," Manning told CBS sideline reporter Sam Ryan on Aug. 27. "My trainers and weight coaches have done a tremendous job helping me, and I'm really putting them to work. … I have some more left to do, and I still have some time, and I'm going to use that time. At the appropriate time, I think I'll know what the right decision is, and with the help of coach [Jim] Caldwell, I'll make that decision, and we'll go from there."
[Photos: See more of Peyton Manning]
Sports injury expert Will Carroll, who has most of the NFL's doctors on speed dial and lives in Indianapolis, recently had this to say about Manning in his Sports Illustrated column:
While he's not at full strength, observers at practice say that he's not having difficulties going through the passing tree. He's not yet throwing deep balls, facing coverage, or making reads, but it's enough to know that he could. The biggest test is going to be contact, of course, and that has less to do with Manning and more with the line.
On Monday morning, ESPN.com reported that there are no plans for Manning to have another procedure on his neck, and that several neurosurgeons have been consulted to try and find the answer to one simple question: Why isn't a guy who hasn't missed a football game due to injury since he was 13 years old taking so long to recover this time? Not being able to work with team trainers during the lockout didn't help, but concerns are elevating now.
Things could change through the week, but right now, it doesn't look great for Peyton Manning in Week 1 of the regular season.
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