INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Peyton Manning is still on Indianapolis' active roster and could return this season.
Team officials said that part hasn't changed. His role will change.
On Monday, Colts owner Jim Irsay used Twitter to clarify comments he reportedly made during a private breakfast with Super Bowl donors, comments that indicated Indy's franchise quarterback would miss the rest of this season.
"I didn't say Peyton out 4season FOR SURE,keeping him on ActiveRoster n taking it month by month/Outside chance of return n December possible," Irsay wrote.
Indy's final regular-season game is Jan. 1.
Manning was expected to miss at least two months after having neck surgery on Sept. 8 and possibly more, which still might cost the four-time league MVP the entire season.
Manning's three-game absence followed a streak of 227 consecutive starts including the playoffs since being taken No. 1 overall in the 1998 draft. Not surprisingly, the Colts are off to their first 0-3 start since '98.
But after being seen at Colts practices last week and spending Sunday night's game in Indy's coaches' booth, the speculation turned to whether he would be healthy enough in time to make it back this season.
The Colts will continue to wait.
"The protocol hasn't changed one iota," Colts vice chairman Bill Polian told radio listeners Monday night. "He's still on the active roster and we have said time and time again that we will leave him on the active roster until the doctors tell us it's impossible for him to come back this year.
"He's exercising. He's doing a lot more than he did a week ago. The bottom line is nothing has changed and he will have some examinations and tests down the line, quite a little while from now. It's not imminent."
The Colts have not discussed Manning's recovery in detail.
He originally had surgery May 23 to repair a damaged nerve that was causing muscle weakness in his throwing arm, and when that didn't work as anticipated, Manning had an anterior spinal fusion. The procedure normally involves making an incision in the front of the neck, removing soft disk tissue between the vertebrae and fusing the bones together with a graft. The goal is to ease pain or address a disk problem.
It was Manning's third neck surgery in 19 months.
The Colts have provided no timetable for Manning's expected return.
"Only time will tell," Polian said. "I will quote one of the doctors, a very eminent physician, who said, 'There is no magic potion, there is no device, there is no X-ray technology, laser technology anything that we can use that will tell us when this nerve will regenerate. When it does, it will. Knowing that, there is no point in speculating."
The Colts brought Kerry Collins out of retirement as Manning's replacement, but he has struggled.
And now he's hurt.
Collins missed some practice time last week with a sore throwing shoulder, then left the Steelers game to be evaluated for a possible concussion. The Colts didn't have an update on Collins' condition Monday.
Curtis Painter replaced Collins in the fourth quarter and took the Colts 80 yards for their most meaningful offensive touchdown of the season, a 6-yard run from Joseph Addai. Painter went 5 of 11 for 60 yards with a 62.7 rating.
The poor start by Collins has led to speculation that the Colts might try to find another veteran to step in — maybe former Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard or retired Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer.
Garrard's agent told The Associated Press in an email that the Colts have not contacted him.
Other names being mentioned include former Rams quarterbacks Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger. Polian, however, ruled out any interest in Warner. Bulger's agent said the Colts have not contacted him.
Some fed-up fans have even suggested the Colts tank the season so they can draft Manning's eventual heir in April. They're hoping to get Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.
The Colts refuse to think that way.
So until he's healthy, Manning will be the team's highest-paid adviser after signing a five-year, $90 million contract in July.
"He's a resource for us, and he's a guy that's been around this system for a long time. It's what I identify as, 'intellectual property,' and I don't think that you're very smart if you don't use it," coach Jim Caldwell said. "We use everything we possibly can to try to get ourselves in position to get a victory."