Peyton Manning has 3rd surgery, return in doubt

Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts watches the action during the game against the Washington Redskins at Lucas Oil Stadium on August 19, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

INDIANAPOLIS - The Indianapolis Colts say franchise quarterback Peyton Manning had another neck surgery Thursday and there is no timetable for his return.

Manning had the procedure after undergoing more diagnostic tests and consulting with doctors earlier this week. The team did not provide details, but says it will keep the four-time league MVP on the active roster for now.

For Manning, it is the third surgery in the past 19 months. He had not fully recovered from a May 23 procedure to fix a nerve in his neck.

Earlier Thursday, a source on the team told CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman the organization is preparing for Manning to miss a large swath of the season, if not all of it.

Manning had already been ruled out of Sunday's season opener at Houston, ending a streak of 227 consecutive starts including playoffs — the second-longest in league history behind only Brett Favre.

Earlier Thursday, coach Jim Caldwell said that Manning has completed the doctors' tests and now team officials are now trying to determine the best course of action to get Manning back on the field.

Caldwell spoke to reporters several hours after team owner Jim Irsay wrote on Twitter that Manning would be out "awhile" without elaborating on a timetable for Manning's return.

"It's obviously accurate otherwise he wouldn't have tweeted it," Caldwell said. "In terms of the timeframe we're talking about, I think he's also stating we don't know. None of us know. It is a little bit in flux at this point, but I think we will have some more clarity here shortly."

Peyton Manning injury looms large over team, NFL

Manning's absence took on even greater urgency after Irsay tweeted early Thursday: "We had a good practice yesterday and r guys r fired up 4 the season. (hash)18's out for awhile, but compete, we will/BELIEVE."

The posting came one day after Manning was ruled out of Sunday's game, ending his streak of 227 consecutive starts, including the playoffs. The streak is the second-longest among quarterbacks in NFL history, behind only Brett Favre.

So just when will he be back?

A source on the team told CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman that the organization is preparing for Manning to miss a large swath of the season, if not all of it.

"That doesn't mean Manning will miss the season but the Colts' coaches have been told to prepare the players for life without their star," Freeman writes. "The problem is that Manning's neck continues to heal slowly. The nerve regeneration is proceeding at a far slower pace than expected."

Initially, the Colts thought Manning would return within six to eight weeks after his May 23 surgery. But with Manning unable to work out with team trainers during the 4½-month NFL lockout, the recovery has gone much slower than anyone anticipated.

He opened training camp on the physically unable to perform list and wasn't activated until Aug. 29.

After doing limited work on the practice field last week, Manning complained over the weekend about soreness in his back. Initially, team officials thought it was just part of the normal rehabilitation process. But doctors then instructed Manning to stop practicing and began running more tests.

That prompted team officials to announce Monday that Manning was doubtful for the season-opener. On Wednesday, the Colts ruled him out of the game.

Throughout the past several days, speculation has run rampant about the severity of Manning's injury. One Twitter post, from a local sports radio talk show host, said Manning had already had an additional surgery last weekend, something Irsay shot down Thursday: "Peyton didn't have a medical procedure last Sunday,we'll have more info 2 add clarity 2 situation soon."

The only other time Manning has missed a regular-season snap because of injury was in 2001 against Miami. Backup Mark Rypien fumbled. The Dolphins recovered and 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.

Not only has he never missed a start, he's rarely missed practice.

Manning sat out one week of training camp in 1998 before signing his rookie contract. A decade later, he missed all of training camp in 2008 because he underwent surgery twice to remove an infected bursa sac from his left knee.

Somehow, he's always made it back for game day.

But he won't make it back this time.

"To say I am disappointed in not being able to play is an understatement," Manning said in a release sent out by the team Wednesday. "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."

Since being taken with the No. 1 overall pick in 2008, Manning has led the Colts to 11 playoff appearances, 11 double-digit winning seasons, eight division crowns, two AFC titles and a Super Bowl championship.

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