INDIANAPOLIS // Peyton Manning's streak of 227 consecutive starts could be in jeopardy, but he thinks he can be ready for the Indianapolis Colts' regular-season opener.
The veteran quarterback will be sidelined for the rest of the pre-season as he recovers from off-season neck surgery. Manning, the only four-time MVP in NFL history, has been on the Colts' physically unable to perform list since the start of training camp.
"I certainly want to be out there, and it's hard to keep track of the hours I've spent in rehab," Manning said.
"I was short-changed a little bit by the lockout, and I'm going to need every bit of the next two weeks, and then I can give you more of an update with where I am."
Just hours before Manning made those remarks on Saturday night, Jim Irsay, the team owner, acknowledged there is a possibility the Colts will start the season without him. On Twitter, Irsay said the team are evaluating the situation and must be prepared to go without Manning.
Manning said he was unaware of Irsay's comments because he had been busy rehabilitating.
He signed a five-year, US$90 million (Dh330m) contract in July after the four-and-a-half month lockout ended.
The idea of not having Manning line up behind the centre is undoubtedly a concern for the Colts and, until now, it seemed inconceivable.
Since being the No 1 pick in the 1998 draft, Manning has started all 208 regular-season games and 19 more in the play-offs, the second-longest streak for a quarterback in league history behind the recently retired Brett Favre. But the recovery from the second operation on Manning's neck in 15 months has been slower than expected.
"I have made progress, but I still have some work to do," he said. "When I'm healthy enough, I'll be able to play."
The only other time one of his starts appeared to be in jeopardy was in 2008 when Manning needed two operations to remove an infection from his left knee.
He missed all of training camp and the entire pre-season, then struggled early in the regular season before winning his third MVP award.
With Manning, the Colts have been a perennial Super Bowl contender. Without him, their hopes of becoming the first team to play an NFL title game in their home stadium would take a hit.
Indianapolis will host the upcoming Super Bowl.
Curtis Painter, the back-up quarterback, has started both pre-season games and has completed eight of 16 passes for 95 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.
He has not played in a regular-season game since relieving Manning in the final two games of the 2009 season, after the Colts had already locked up home-field advantage throughout the play-offs.
Jim Caldwell, the coach, reiterated that Manning's return is up to the quarterback, the doctors and the Colts' trainers.
"He's still caught in the same rehab mode, working extremely hard, as hard as he possibly can," Caldwell said.
"The doctors, as of today, have not released anything."
Cardinals agree Fitzgerald deal
The Arizona Cardinals and Larry Fitzgerald have agreed to an eight-year deal that could pay the wide receiver as much as US$120 million (Dh440m), making it one of the richest deals in the NFL. Fitzgerald is the Cardinals’ career leader in receptions with 613 and needs just 294 yards to surpass Roy Green for yards receiving. In Arizona’s run to the Super Bowl in the 2008 season, Fitzgerald shattered most of the NFL play-off receiving records.
So far, so good for McNabb
Donovan McNabb was pleased with his first pre-season start for Minnesota, after leading the Vikings on a long drive from their one-yard line that ended in a field goal against Seattle. In limited playing time, the quarterback completed six of eight passes as the Vikings beat the Seahawks 20-7. “That was big for us, obviously, with tough field position and to be able to sustain a drive,” McNabb said. “But we have to capitalise on that.”
Texans feature two-back attack
Gary Kubiak may have found another option at running back behind Arion Foster. The Texans’ star back, who was the NFL’s leading rusher in 2010, ran for two touchdowns and Ben Tate tacked on another score and 95 yards in Houston’s 27-14 win over New Orleans on Saturday. Tate, a second-round pick in 2010, missed most of last season after breaking an ankle in a pre-season game. Drew Brees threw for 109 yards for the Saints in a losing effort.
Orton grabs a starting role
Brady Quinn is not sure if he is Denver’s No 2 quarterback or if he is behind Tim Tebow as the team’s No 3, but it is certain that Kyle Orton has landed the starter’s job. Orton led two touchdown drives in the Broncos’ 24-10 pre-season win over the Buffalo Bills, with Quinn throwing a touchdown pass and an interception. John Fox, the coach, has not made a decision on the quarterback rotation and said he probably will not announce it when he does.
Shootings mar 49ers game
A 24-year-old man wearing a shirt abusing the San Francisco 49ers was seriously wounded as gunfire erupted in the parking area after the team’s pre-season game against their cross-bay rivals, the Oakland Raiders, on Saturday, while another sustained lesser injuries in an earlier shooting. Police said that the man wearing a T-shirt referring to the 49ers with an obscenity, was shot two to four times in the stomach.