The guessing game about Peyton Manning's immediate future continues. (AP)
Peyton Manning will miss the remainder of the 2011 season. Probably.
Colts owner Jim Irsay reportedly told Super Bowl donors at a Monday morning breakfast that Manning won't practice until at least December, meaning the chances of Indianapolis' superstar QB suiting up this season are very slim. After news of Irsay's comments broke, he took to Twitter to try and clear them up:
I didn't say Peyton out 4season FOR SURE,keeping him on ActiveRoster n taking it month by month/Outside chance of return n December possible
Placing Manning on injured reserve would make him ineligible to return at any point during the 2011 season. Thus far, the Colts have avoided making that move -- which would free up a spot on the 53-man roster -- and opted to carry just two active quarterbacks, Kerry Collins and Curtis Painter.
However, Collins left Sunday night's Colts loss to Pittsburgh with an apparent concussion, which forced Painter into action. After a wobbly start, including a fumble that resulted in a Pittsburgh defensive touchdown, Painter performed admirably and rallied Indianapolis late. His performance led Colts coach Jim Caldwell to say that he would "look at all the other factors involved" before picking a QB for Week 4.
If Collins is not cleared to play next Monday night in Tampa Bay, Indianapolis would be left with just Painter on its current QB depth chart. In that scenario the Colts would likely be forced to activate rookie Mike Hartline off the practice squad to back up Painter.
Either way, the Colts' situation at quarterback continues to be extremely unsettled.
And Irsay's comments Monday again raise the question: What's the point of bringing Manning back this season, if the Colts are out of it? With his team sitting at 0-3 (and 0-2 at home), Irsay might soon be able to turn his attention fully to the 2012 draft. As it stands right now, it's hard to envision a way the Colts rally back into the playoff picture.
So if Indy's out of it come December, is there any reason to rush Manning's return? There doesn't seem to be, especially if the alternate plan is to give Painter some extra reps. Sooner or later, the Colts have to figure out what their permanent plan is in a Manning-less future.