That's a question we have not had to answer since the beginning of the 1998 NFL season. Over the last 13 years Manning has started every game for the Colts, amassing an impressive 208 consecutive regular season starts.
That might all crash to an end with the opening of the 2011 NFL season in less than six weeks, as Manning has been placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list for training camp and is listed as probable for the start of the season due to double neck surgeries performed over the offseason.
Is it really possible that the NFL's Iron Man could miss time early this year, and what would the Colts do without him?
Could Peyton Manning miss part of the 2011 season?
The simple answer is yes, he definitely could. Now is not the time for the Colts to posture or play around with their injury list in an attempt to throw off the competition. If Manning says he hasn't thrown a football all summer after undergoing two neck surgeries, we believe him.
Manning is not the type of player to publicly complain about injuries for the sake of the media. In fact, he's been injured so rarely in his 13-year NFL career that Colt fans and the media alike are uncertain of what to expect.
The sad fact is that Manning could very well miss the beginning of the 2011 season. It will be interesting to see how well Manning responds to treatment now that he is able to workout and rehab with team doctors and trainers. However, the Colts should be expected to be tight-lipped about Manning's status and availability.
How will Manning respond to two neck surgeries?
Here is the great unknown—how will Manning respond to two neck surgeries? This is a tough question, since we really do not know the extent of the injury, or the surgeries.
The Indianapolis Star reported that Manning underwent "minimally invasive" surgery to fix a disc-related issue that was causing pain. But that's it. No one outside the Colts organization knows the full measure of the surgery, the injury or the amount of pain Manning was in.
We also do not know then how Manning will respond. If the 2008 season is an indication, when Manning recovered from knee surgery, the Colts will be fine. However, a neck and a knee are two very different body parts and expecting a similar recovery could be as complex as the difference between breaking your pinky toe and your big toe—break one and you're fine, break the other and you can't walk.
What would the Colts look like without Manning?
Without Manning under center the Indianapolis Colts would go from a top-12 team and playoff favorite to a cellar-dweller hoping to beat the Tennessee Titans for last place in the division.
Anyone making an argument for Peyton Manning as NFL MVP will tell you that no one player is more important to his team than Manning, and I agree with that 100 percent. Which makes you wonder why the Colts are comfortable with Curtis Painter and Nate Davis backing up Manning.
Is it short-sighted to not have a fall back plan for your most important player and position? Across the NFL we see teams signing veteran players at quarterback just as insurance policies against injury.
The Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots have made a lucrative business out of signing or drafting backup quarterbacks and then turning them over for draft picks, but the Colts have never done this.
It's safe to say that without Manning, and without a veteran quarterback coming over via trade or signing, the Colts would be a hollow shell of their current team.
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