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Peyton Manning's Neck Injury to End Colts' Run?


Peyton Manning’s second neck surgery won’t impact his time-of-possession on television this weekend.

No, the pain in the neck won’t stop the No. 1-ranked Nielson Co. ad man, who will continue to dominate the airwaves in spots for MasterCard, Oreo, Gatorade, Sony and DirecTV. (Although, there is serious concern as to how the recent setback will impact this season of “Football Cops.”)

The fact that Manning just underwent his second neck operation since May 23 will, however, almost certainly sack an Indianapolis Colts squad that was charging towards its 10th consecutive playoff appearance before the rumors of No. 18’s demise proved to be anything but exaggerated.

The 35-year-old four-time league MVP and Super Bowl XLI MVP had a “single level anterior fusion” on Thursday, Sept. 8, and will miss the first game of his career — ending a streak of 227 consecutive starts (208 regular season, 19 postseason) dating back to Sept. 6, 1998 — in Week 1 on the road against the AFC South rival Houston Texans.

According to the Colts’ official press release:

“(Single level anterior fusion) is performed regularly throughout the country on persons from all walks of life, including professional football players. Two former Colts players had this same procedure last winter and have fully resumed their careers. Rehabilitation from such surgery is typically an involved process. Therefore, there will be no estimation of a return date at this time. We will keep Peyton on the active roster until we have a clearer picture of his recovery process.

“Peyton will immediately begin the rehabilitation regimen mapped out by the surgeon. We anticipate no further updates or availabilities beyond those required by the NFL Media Policy for the immediate future.”

Recovery time for this “routine” surgery generally takes around three months — meaning Manning will likely miss the entire 2011 season.

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On the bright side, the Colts are replacing the NFL’s third all-time leading passer (54,828 yards) with the 11th-ranked yardage man (40,441 yards), 38-year-old graybeard gunslinger Kerry Collins. And after serving as the off-and-on starter of the Titans since 2006, Collins is familiar with the Texans heading into the season opener — in which the Colts are a nine-point underdog.

As the Titans starter, Collins went 3–2 against the Texans and 1–1 in Houston. And his two losses came by a combined four points. Last year, Collins directed a 31–17 win in Week 15. As a game manager, Collins has a proven track record — which includes two trips to the NFC title game (1996 Panthers, 2000 Giants) and a loss in Super Bowl XXXV — and he expects to add to that resume this week.

“I expect to run the offense, bottom line,” said Collins. “Make plays when they’re there, be smart with the ball, make good reads, good decisions, get us into the right plays when the situation calls for it.”

Manning is clearly the face of the franchise in Indy and arguably the most important player in the entire NFL. And after making the playoffs in 11-of-13 seasons with Manning under center — including every season since 2002 — the Colts will likely stagger without their laser-rocket-armed leader.

It’s audible time and the man who calls the shots isn’t there to make the most important adjustment in recent Colts history.

“To say I am disappointed in not being able to play is an understatement,” Manning said in an official release from the Colts.

“The best part about football is being out there on the field playing with my teammates. It will be tough not to be out there playing for the organization and our fans. I simply am not healthy enough to play, and I am doing everything I can to get my health back.

“The team will do fine without me, and I know for sure that I will miss them much more than they miss me.”

It will be hard to miss Peyton. Just turn on the TV, where a mustachioed Manning will armed or dangerously speed-eating Oreos with little brother Eli, the NFL’s new “Iron Man” at 110 straight starts (103 regular season, 7 postseason).