Peyton Manning injury looms large over team, NFL

As the new pro football season begins, the Indianapolis Colts and National Football League are keeping their fingers crossed that Peyton Manning's neck heals in a hurry.

The superstar quarterback is recovering from neck surgery, and apparently isn't ready to play.

On Monday, the Colts announced that, "The doctors have decided that Peyton will not practice. His participation, therefore, in Sunday's game versus Houston will likely be doubtful."

On "The Early Show" Monday, Chris Russo, host of Sirius XM Radio's "Mad Dog Unleashed," said Manning is "a workaholic. So (the inactivity)'s gotta be driving him crazy. You've gotta figure it's fairly serious. The fact that they're telling you now that he's gonna be doubtful for the first part of the year, this could be more than one game, I think it's a concern."

Many experts and fans feel Manning IS the Colts, and Russo said, "Offensively," (losing Manning is a) big issue. They brought Kerry Collins in, who is an experienced backup, who will play these first couple of games. The Colts have a very hard schedule in the beginning of the year. They play the Steelers, they have to play at Houston, they play at Tampa on a Monday night. So if he misses those first (few) games, that's an issue. And their bye week is not until November, so they can't use that bye week to get him better.

Manning signed a $90 million contract during the off-season and, says Russo, "(The Colts) would not have signed him to that contract unless they feel that he's gonna be able to play for a good part of the contract. Because I'm sure they gave him plenty of physicals, and they gave him all that money. So they must feel confident this is a temporary scenario for him. So, I would think that, eventually, he's gonna go play. The streak is not a big deal. He's got this (227 games) consecutive games streak. No sports fan in America really cares about that streak. He's not Lou Gehrig. So the streak is not that big a deal."

And there's another issue involving the injury: This season's Super Bowl is in Indianapolis.

The Colts, Russo observed, are "not gonna to make it without him. If they don't have Manning, they cannot get to that spot. Last year, the Super Bowl was in Dallas, so the Cowboys had that pressure to be the first team to host a Super Bowl in their city, (but starting QG Tony) Romo gets hurt, they collapsed. That seems to be a negative, when you have the Super Bowl in your town. It's gonna be in New York here in a couple of years. It's too early in September to think about who the Super Bowl favorites are. You've got to play a long season. If this is December and he wasn't playing, well, then you say, 'Oh, they got no chance to host this game.' Things could happen. It's a long year."

When Manning does return to action, Russo says, he won't need as much practice as other signal-callers "because he's old. He's 35 years of age. This is his (offensive) system. So I would suspect that he'll be in a situation where he will be able to have four or five practices, he'll be rusty, but he can play."