On Monday, Colts owner Jim Irsay told reporters in Indianapolis that he doesn't want to talk about the future of quarterback Peyton Manning this week. Last week was apparently fine for a public war of words with the longtime face of his franchise, but Irsay has decided that the focus of the next several days should be on the Super Bowl being played in his football palace, Lucas Oil Stadium.
Yeah, good luck with that.
Several hours after Irsay addressed the media to kick off Super Bowl week, Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports published a report indicating that Manning's injuries may prevent him from ever returning to the NFL -- regardless of what uniform he wears.
Cole's report comes on the heels of several others that also conveyed ominous notes on Manning's future. Last week, Jason La Canfora of NFL.com reported that the Colts' brass decided weeks ago to part ways with Manning, something made possible due to an option clause in his contract. Irsay took to Twitter to deny the claim that any decision had been made, but the eventual parting between Manning and Colts seems increasingly likely.
During the Pro Bowl, NBC commentator Peter King noted that Manning is struggling to get healthy. In his "Monday Morning Quarterback" column the following day, King offered his own opinion on Manning's future, writing "My gut is Manning's probably done here. And only time will tell if he'll play anywhere. It's just not anything we can know now."
Citing two sources with knowledge of Manning's rehabilitation from neck surgery, Cole reports that Manning's efforts to rebuild his arm strength since his most recent surgery have plateaued and it remains unclear if he'll ever be able to throw with the velocity necessary to play in the NFL. On Dec. 1, the Colts announced that Manning would be increasing the intensity of his workouts and that the fusion surgery on Manning's neck had achieved "firm fixation."
In early September, the Colts issued a statement indicating that "Peyton has undergone this surgery today by having a single level anterior fusion. The surgery was un-eventful."
The surgery was Manning's third in a 19-month span. At the time, Will Carroll of SI.com tweeted that such a procedure could be career ending.
With the Colts owning the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft which features standout collegiate quarterback Andrew Luck and having the ability to escape from Manning's contract, it appears probable that King's gut instinct will prove true. The question then becomes if Manning will ever be able to line up under center for another team. While folks within the Jets organization have lobbied for Manning to come to New York and fans in Tennessee have rallied support for him to come back to the state where he played his college ball, it remains unclear if Manning will ever be able to fully recover and how long it would take if he could.
Regardless of how Irsay feels, expect to hear more about this as the Super Bowl at Peyton's place approaches.
UPDATE 3:30 PM: Peyton Manning sat down with Trey Wingo of ESPN for an interview. An upbeat Manning sounded optimistic about his progress, contrary to the ominous reports about his health. He also told a group of reporters that he has no plans to retire and revealed that he had thrown on Tuesday morning. While Manning did not provide Wingo with any dates or timetables regarding his rehabilitation, the Colts quarterback claimed that "Everything looks good...that I'll be cleared and ready to go."
Despite his insistence that he has been improving at the rate expected by his doctors, Manning conceded that a decision on his future looms. When asked by Wingo when his future in Indianapolis will be decided, Manning said, "Probably after this week ... [it'll] happen soon. I'm sure y'all will know when it does."