Manning clears nothing up

Colts quarterbacks Peyton Manning (left) and Curtis Painter talk on the sidelines during a game...

Colts quarterbacks Peyton Manning (left) and Curtis Painter talk on the sidelines during a game against the Chiefs in Indianapolis, Ind., Oct. 9, 2011. (BRENT SMITH/Reuters)

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:38 PM ET

TORONTO - The sight of Peyton Manning inside the Indianapolis Colts locker room does nothing to raise the bar, lift the spirits.

Rather, it highlights the existing misery.

The Colts have the look of a team in absolute free fall as after they gave up in their 62-7 shellacking at the hands of the New Orleans Saints, they simply went through the motions last Sunday in a 27-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans, a team that has its own collection of warts.

At 0-8 and having a game against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, the gloom is thick at Lucas Oil Stadium, site of this year’s Super Bowl which will be played Feb. 5.

On Thursday, Manning made a rare appearance and the news he delivered was inconsequential to the embarrassment of their season.

“We’re still waiting for the fusion to take place, it’s still going slow and we still have some issues with the regeneration of the nerve,” Manning said. “I still have some restrictions.”

Manning has undergone three neck surgeries in the past 19 months, the latest one occurring Sept. 8 when he had a spinal fusion to repair a damaged nerve.

Nobody knows when he’ll be back, not this year and perhaps never.

His status and the total collapse caused by his absence has rocked what was once a proud franchise to its core. Just what to do and where do you go to turn things around?

Do you hope that Manning will be able to come back at some point in December, to play a few games and show that he still has it, that he remains an elite-level quarterback that can refloat the franchise? Will he retire? Do you trade him or cut him adrift.

Nobody seems to know.

Without Manning at the helm, the future of head coach Jim Caldwell is in question and then there is all that ‘Suck For Luck’ crap that stalks the Colts as well as the winless Miami Dolphins.

Andrew Luck is currently starring for Stanford University and is considered a can’t-miss prospect, a star in the making who will turn whatever franchise he plays for around.

One thing for certain — he would be an upgrade over Curtis Painter, the current Colts No. 1 who with each game looks to be more overmatched than the one before.

All those questions and no answers — just a Hall of Fame to be quarterback that doesn’t know if he has played his last game or if he will play for another team.

“Those are all fair questions, but that’s not what I’m going to talk about right now,” Manning told reporters. “I’m thinking about how can I get a little better? (The contract) is really a one-year deal with a four-year extension and that was my recommendation because I wasn’t healthy when I signed the contract. Part of the reason to practise is so the Colts have a fair chance to evaluate where I am. The team has a right to know where you are physically and where your health is.”

Bill Polian, the Colts vice chairman, said earlier this week that he wanted to keep Manning on the active roster so he could practise during the final month of the season, and perhaps make it back into a game.

“I think it’s important for (Manning) to feel like, ‘Hey, I’m back, I can do the things that are necessary to say I can play like I want to,’” Polian said. “The bottom line is he needs to feel good about being back and doing the things he wants to do.”

Manning said he is thinking along the same lines.

“I like to play, I miss being out there in the huddle,” he said. “So if I have a chance to be back out there, I’d love to do it.”

As far as his contract extension goes, but the Colts need to decide by early March whether to kick in the four-year extension by picking up a $28 million option bonus. But on what basis will they make that decision if Manning can’t return this season? Do they go on faith and pray that he will fully recover?

“What you want to see is for him to keep making progress, to get back to the point where you can say he’s making all the throws and doing the things he needs to do,” owner Jim Irsay said Thursday. “The truth is it’s a slow progression and to say that he would hit a ceiling on Dec. 15 or Jan. 1 and he’s not going to get any better, that’s really uncertain. You just don’t know.”

For the most part through this process Irsay has been tweeting away like Nero playing his fiddle while Rome burned.

On Tuesday Irsay tweeted: “8 weeks til xmas, less than 100 days til Super Bowl Peyton’s healing well, maybe he’ll take a snap b4 the ball falls in NYC, New Year’s Eve!”

Perhaps Irsay delights in being a tease. He also offered this one.

“Halfway point of r season, back home Falcons, Jags b4 ByeWeek/The best scenario is #18 comes back BIG TIME 4 big year n’12, we get some wins NOW.”

That’s what it’s down to these days in Indianapolis, a quarterback with no answers, a team in disarray and an owner who tweets nonsense.

Who would have guessed this?


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