Packers Missing Out on Manning

The third preseason game is typically the "big" one, with the starters playing into the second half, but the Packers will not go up against four-time MVP quarterback Peyton Manning. Manning went through neck surgery twice during the offseason, including in May.

For his part, Peyton Manning said that he is hopeful of being ready to play against the Houston Texans on Sept. 11.

As for playing on Friday night against defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay or a week later in the preseason finale at Cincinnati, that's another story.

"I feel a little bit better. I still have some work to do. I still need time (to continue his rehab)," said Manning, who had neck surgery twice in the offseason, including a second round in May. "I won't play in preseason. I am going to need these next two weeks, every single second. I think in two weeks I'll have a better answer. I'm going to need these next two weeks to get even healthier."

It's clear that the four-time league Most Valuable Player wants to get back on the practice field as soon as he can.

"I certainly want to be out there, and it's hard to keep track of the hours I've spent in rehab," Manning explained.

"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 I have made progress, but I still have some work to do. When I'm healthy enough, I'll be able to play."

The third preseason game is typically the most important, with coaches playing the starters into the second half. Thus, the Packers are missing out on a big opportunity to face one of the NFL's elite offenses.

"You love the opportunity to play against the Peyton Mannings," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday. "On apersonal note, you don't want to see anybody go through what he's going through. He's great for the game and been a great player for a long time. I wish him a speedy recovery."

Seeing Manning would be helpful but by how much? The Colts have been outscored 49-13 in two preseason games. While Indianapolis has won at least 10 games in each year since 2002 but 4-23 in their since the 2004 preseason finale.

Said Packers linebacker Clay Matthews: "Obviously, you want to go against the best of the best. But with the unique offseason we've had, we're really focusing on improving ourselves. Whoever that's against, we need to improve. "

In Manning's absence during the preseason, quarterbacks Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky have combined for a 34.4 passer rating: 19-of-43, 273 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions. They've generated one touchdown and two field goals.

"We have to do better," team owner Jim Irsay said. "It's something where you want a young quarterback to come in and capture your eye and really do some things. When it comes to that position, it's about getting the job done, moving the ball, not turning it over."

Should the Colts decide to sign a veteran NFL quarterback to the roster as an insurance policy to Manning not being available for the Texans game, the pickings would appear to be slim.

"You're not going find a second Peyton Manning sitting on the streets," Irsay said, explaining that Indianapolis would be looking to find someone who could play a game manager's role. The Colts offense would have to be scaled back in order to accommodate someone.

"It's not out of the question someone might be able to come in and play that role," he said.

Former Carolina, New York Giants and Tennessee Titans signal caller Kerry Collins might be the first option due to his background with coach Jim Caldwell and vice chairman Bill Polian.

Collins announced his retirement during the lockout, but Caldwell was his position coach at Penn State and Polian was the general manager of the Panthers when he was initially drafted in 1995. He was reportedly offered a chance to sign with Indianapolis in 2006 but chose the Titans instead.

"Those are the type of names you get to when you're looking" at a veteran backup, Irsay said.

The team wants to make certain Manning is fully recovered. If he returns too soon and isn't able to maintain his normal throwing mechanics, that could lead to shoulder and elbow problems.

"You don't want that," the Colts owner said. "He can't be forcing balls with the throwing motion. That can lead to other problems."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.

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