INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Peyton Manning's consecutive games streak could be history by Sunday.
Team officials said Monday the four-time league MVP has been told by doctors not to practice and he will be listed as doubtful for the season opener against Houston. He is still undergoing tests, but no additional surgery has been scheduled.
"As a result of the most recent development the doctors have decided that Peyton will not practice," a Colts statement said. "His participation therefore, in Sunday's game versus Houston will likely be doubtful. We will update his playing status as required by NFL policy as the week goes on."
Manning started training camp on the physically unable to perform list as he rehabilitated from neck surgery performed in May. He wasn't activated until last Monday, when he returned to practice, albeit with limited work.
When Manning experienced soreness in his back, team officials originally thought it was simply part of the normal rehab process. But over the weekend, the statement said, doctors re-evaluated Manning and told him to stop working out.
"At the conclusion of the diagnostic process, if there are any new developments in the prognosis which we outlined for Peyton at the start of training camp we will report them," the team said. "As of now, Peyton continues to deal with a complicated neurological recovery, the end date of which is unpredictable."
Manning, the only four-time MVP in league history, has never missed a regular-season start and his streak of 227 games including playoffs is second for quarterbacks; only Brett Favre made more consecutive starts.
If Manning cannot start, the job will likely fall to Kerry Collins. The Colts brought Collins, a 16-year veteran, out of retirement Aug. 17 after team owner Jim Irsay told fans to be prepared for the possibility of starting the season without Manning — an unthinkable thought until now.
"It's sad when players face tough times, but I know he's strong enough to get through it," said Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday, one of Manning's closest friends. "He'll keep working, he'll keep rehabbing and he'll be back whenever he can."
Could it be Sunday?
While coach Jim Caldwell said the Colts will practice without Manning on Monday — and for however long they must— he also inferred it's not time to write off Manning or his streak.
"It's been an incredible feat," Caldwell said. "He's been an iron man, there's no other way to put it. It's doubtful that he plays this week, but it takes a very unusual individual to have that streak."
Collins said he has gotten comfortable in the offense and will be ready if he has to become the first quarterback other than Manning to start for the Colts since Jim Harbaugh in 1997.
Fortunately for the Colts, Collins already knows the Texans fairly well from his most recent stop at Tennessee. And while he joined the Colts knowing he might have to replace Manning, he wasn't sure it would ever happen.
"I thought the first week might be a possibility with Peyton's status so uncertain," Collins said. "There's no way I can replace someone like Peyton and what he means for this team and this franchise. But I will bust my butt to get ready and I hope the guys see that."
Speculation about Manning's status began all over Sunday night when a local sports talk radio host tweeted that Manning would need a second surgery on his injured neck.
After the original posting, it was reported that Manning was expected to see more doctors about the slow pace of his recovery.
Team officials repeatedly have said Manning would not be cleared to practice without the consent of the doctors. Manning often has blamed the NFL's 4½-month lockout, in part, for the slow progress because he could not work with team doctors.
On Aug. 20, Manning ruled himself out of the final two preseason games and acknowledged he would need "every bit" of the remaining time to get healthy enough to play in the opener.
Manning, however, did not even dress for Thursday night's exhibition finale at Cincinnati and missed the entire preseason for only the second time in his career. He also sat out in 2008 after he needed surgery twice to remove an infected bursa sac in his left knee.
He struggled during the first half of that season before leading the Colts to nine consecutive wins, back to the playoffs, and picked up his third MVP award.
This time, who knows?