Should Peyton Manning Return During the 2011-12 Season?

Brendan O'HareContributor IDecember 2, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 27:  Peyton Manning and Curtis Painter #7 of the Indianapolis Colts sit on the bench in the final minute of the game against the Carolina Panthers at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 27, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  The colts lost 27-19.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

It was said yesterday that Peyton Manning would be moving into the "next phase" of his rehabilitation process, an announcement that probably brought the first sign of life into the eyes of comatose Colts fans. Dr. Robert Watkins said, "X-ray and CT examination of the surgical area shows that the fusion performed in September has achieved firm fixation, Peyton will now be allowed to increase the intensity and breadth of his workouts as tolerated." 

Well that's all fine and dandy, but is this really what Colts fans want? The Colts are 0-11 at this point, and seemed destined for inverse perfection (four out of five remaining games against teams with above-.500 record, with a finale against the 3-8 Jaguars). There is no hope in Indianapolis for anything more than a No. 1 overall draft pick, to be used to select Andrew Luck or traded away for another selection.

What I would like to know, with Peyton's timetable "uncertain" at this point and him only beginning to have thrown a football recently, is if Colts fans would even want him back on the field this season. Obviously, this is just hypothetical, as Peyton's return in 2011 was described as a "long shot." But would this be a necessary thing for Indianapolis?

I am just imagining horrible, horrible scenarios in my head, partially due to the lack of understanding I have about his surgery. I see Vince Wilfork falling on Peyton's neck and having it just disgustingly explode and ruining the NFL forever. I see rusty Peyton's arm disengage itself and hit a linebacker in the face. I don't understand how the body works, as all of these things seem possible to me.

Basically, what I am really trying to get at here is, is it even worth it? The next five games are meaningless to the Colts, and the only real reason you would play Peyton is to stop an 0-16 season, as a 15 percent healthy Peyton is still better than a 400 percent Curtis Painter. It would be more of a pride thing than anything else, and could jeopardize Peyton's health. It would get millions of Colts fans off the ledge, but at what cost?

So let me ask you, Colts fans: Would like to see Peyton Manning play this season? And why?