News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Pro Sports

September 27, 2011

Is Manning done?

Injured quarterback’s return this year far from certain

INDIANAPOLIS — When will quarterback Peyton Manning return to the practice field?

 Will Manning, who underwent neck surgery on Sept. 8, even play again the remainder of this season? He has had three medical procedures performed on his neck over the last 19 months.

Colts owner Jim Irsay clouded the issue a bit while speaking to a group of Super Bowl donors and Indianapolis business executives on Monday.

Irsay reportedly told the audience that Manning is expected to practice with the team in December but that team officials don’t expect to see him in a game until next season.

A few hours later, though, he appeared to back off those comments by saying that Manning will remain on the Colts’ active roster and that his rehab will be evaluated month-by-month.

 ”I didn’t say Peyton out 4season FOR SURE,keeping him on ActiveRoster n taking it month by month/Outside chance of return n December possible,” Irsay tweeted.

When given the opportunity, Colts coach Jim Caldwell opted not to elaborate on the team’s owner’s comments.

 ”I can’t talk about it because the only thing I know was kind of what was stated,” Caldwell said. “I think what was said Sept. 8, our last statement [on plans for Manning’s immediate future], I think that stands.

 ”And our owner, I think, clarified his position with his last tweet. So I think that’s what everybody has to go by. We’ll kind of see how things go. [Manning] is still rehabbing and coming along. We’ll see what happens.”

• Moving on – The Indianapolis Colts continue to look for their first victory of the season.

For the first time since 1998, the Colts dropped to 0-3 for the year after Sunday night’s 23-20 home-field loss to Pittsburgh. Indianapolis made enough plays to win. But the Colts continued to make key mistakes down the stretch that cost them a victory as well.

This week, Indianapolis will play at Tampa Bay in a nationally televised Monday night matchup (ESPN). It will be the Colts’ first trip back to Raymond James Stadium since the team rallied for a 38-35 overtime win in 2003 behind Manning.

The four-time league MVP won’t be there this time other than as a coaching assistant. That’s if he is cleared to make the trip. Manning was able to help in the press box during last week’s game with the Steelers.

 ”I’m not certain [if he’ll be at the Tampa Bay game]. We’ll see what the doctors say, and what they think is the best avenue for him,” Caldwell said.

As for his replacements, nobody is really sure who will start at quarterback against the Buccaneers. Kerry Collins suffered an apparent concussion against Pittsburgh and was replaced by Curtis Painter, who finished up the game. Collins did not practice on Monday.

 ”We’ll see after we have an opportunity to evaluate and see where we are from a health standpoint,” Caldwell said.

 ”We will look at all the other factors as well. All of them. And we’ll see what happens. We’re certainly not making decisions directly after [the Pittsburgh game]. But we’ll have to analyze it.”

No decision has been made as to whether the Colts will sign another quarterback to the active roster. Undrafted rookie Mike Hartline is on the practice squad.

As for the loss to the Steelers, the Colts coach thought that his team played better and showed some improvement in key areas. But there remains a lot of work left unfinished.

 ”We are still measured by wins around here,” he said. “We still see some things that we can do better. But the real key is, obviously, to get over that threshold. We’ve got to keep fighting and working. I think our guys have been preparing well. We just have to do a couple of [additional] things right.”

• Freeney not happy – Defensive end Dwight Freeney – who was credited with two sacks, two tackles for loss, three quarterback hurries and a forced fumble –  wasn’t happy with the outcome against the Steelers.

 ”I think we did some good things. Obviously it wasn’t enough,” Freeney said. “We really don’t care about second-place prizes or [that] we played good for a half or three quarters. We didn’t play good enough to win.”

 He knows there’s still time to turn the season around. But the Colts can’t afford to wait much longer either.

“The season is not over. It is very unfortunate, the 0-3 start,” Freeney said. “No one wants to be in this type of situation. Nobody.”

• Protect the football – Manning fumbled three times and lost one all of last season. The combination of Collins and Painter has had five fumbles through the first three games this year and has lost four of them.

“Ball security is extremely important. It’s something that we work on constantly, and, obviously, it’s something that each week we’ve gotten a little bit better in that area. We went from three to two to one, I believe, or maybe something like that,” Caldwell said.

“But I know that’s important, and we had one in this particular game. In terms of giving teams a short field, you get that a number of different ways, not only by turnovers, but by returns back in your territory and things of that nature. Those are always an issue for us, so we have to continue to find ways to minimize that.”

• Anderson scores first NFL touchdown – Defensive end Jamaal Anderson was a receiver in high school, so he knew out to react after returning a fumble 47 yards for his first NFL touchdown in Sunday night’s loss to the Steelers.

“I had a touchdown like that in college [at Arkansas] but it was called back due to a penalty,” he recalled Monday. “I could have done a better job of scooping the ball [in the Pittsburgh game]. I kind of bobbled it at first. But I was able to hang onto it, make a few moves, and go on into the end zone. I got some good blocks from [weakside linebacker] Kavell [Conner] and the other guys.”

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