INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The unthinkable suddenly seems possible in Indianapolis — opening the season without Peyton Manning.
The four-time league-MVP who has never missed a start in his NFL career is doubtful for Sunday’s game at Houston because of lingering soreness in his back following offseason neck surgery. If Manning sits, it would be the first time the NFL’s active iron man missed a meaningful game after 227 consecutive starts including the playoffs.
“I hate it for Peyton,” said Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday, one of Manning’s closest friends. “You want him to be healthy, you want him to be back, but you want him to take care of it, too. It’s sad when players face tough times, but I know he’s strong enough to get through it.”
The question is whether the Colts can survive without their franchise quarterback, whose streak stands second in NFL
history to Brett Favre’s among all QBs.
Team officials have not said how much longer it could take Manning to recover, leaving that decision to Manning and his doctors.
Over the years, life without Manning has been pretty dismal.
The only time he missed a regular-season snap because of injury, against Miami in 2001, backup Mark Rypien fumbled. The Dolphins recovered, then drove 59 yards for the winning score. Manning returned on the next series with a bloody mouth. He was later diagnosed with a hairline fracture in his jaw.