INDIANAPOLIS -- Peyton Manning could be back on the active roster in the next two weeks.
|Still in rehab after neck surgery, Peyton Manning stands on the sidelines as the Colts host the Packers. (Getty Images)|
League rules require players on the physically unable to perform list to be activated by the team's final cutdown, Sept. 3, or to sit out an additional six weeks.
Conventional wisdom suggests Manning will be activated soon, something coach Jim Caldwell acknowledged Friday night after a 24-21 loss to Green Bay.
"I would say that it's certainly a realistic possibility here and it could happen shortly," Caldwell said.
That's the closest Caldwell has come to say when Manning might return.
Indy's franchise quarterback has been on PUP since practice began Aug. 1, and Caldwell has repeatedly said Manning will practice only after the doctors clear him.
Last Saturday, Manning told reporters he would not play in the final two preseason games and that he needed the next two weeks to get healthy. While Colts officials continue to acknowledge that Manning's rehab is progressing well, there is only one preseason game left and time is running short.
"We've got a week and a half to make that decision," general manager Chris Polian told the Associated Press on Friday night.
Manning is still recovering from May neck surgery, which was supposed to keep him off the field for six to eight weeks. But the recovery has gone slower than expected, in part Manning said, because he couldn't work out with the team's trainers during the 4½-month lockout.
Over the past week, concerns over Manning's health have grown.
Last Saturday, team owner Jim Irsay wrote on Twitter that the Colts needed to be prepared to start the season without their franchise quarterback, an inconceivable thought until now, and asked fans for suggestions about who Indy should sign as a veteran backup.
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On Wednesday, after speculation Indy was talking Brett Favre, the Colts brought another quarterback out of retirement, former Tennessee quarterback Kerry Collins.
Manning has already ruled himself out of next week's preseason finale at Cincinnati, and he told CBS at halftime Friday that he's still hopeful he can play in the Sept. 11 opener at Houston.
"I sure hope so. I've never missed a game in my entire football career due to an injury since I was 13 years old, and I sure don't want to miss Week 1 of the season," Manning said. "That's my goal is to be out there to play and, not just play, but to play competitively. I want to be out there to help my team win and if I'm able to do so, I'll be out there."
Manning has started 227 consecutive games, including the playoffs, the second-longest streak in NFL history for quarterbacks behind Favre.
Colts officials have repeatedly said that there has been not been a setback in Manning's recovery, something Polian reiterated Friday.
"He's still progressing in rehab," he said. "He'll be ready when he's ready and that's when the doctors and he [Manning] say he's ready."
In the meantime, the Colts have been refining backup plans.
They signed Collins, presumably as Manning's top backup, though five-time Pro Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne believes Curtis Painter gives Indy the best chance at winning if Manning is not ready to start the season.
Painter made his statement Friday by going 11 of 21 for 171 yards with two TD passes, and nearly led the Colts to their first preseason win in more than two years.
Caldwell will make that call.
"It's really more appropriate to ask coach Caldwell that question," Polian said when asked if Collins would be the No. 1 backup.