Kravitz: Injury rehab will keep Manning on camp sideline
7:04 AM, Jul. 20, 2011 | 7Comments
The good news is, it looks like the NFL lockout will end later this week and training camps will open within the next two weeks.
The bad news, for the Indianapolis Colts specifically, is quarterback Peyton Manning will not be ready once camp begins July 31 in Anderson as he recovers from surgery on a disk in his neck.
A source familiar with Manning's health situation said Tuesday that Manning will not be able to participate at the outset, and at this point, there's no way of knowing how much time he might miss.
It could be a week. It could be a couple of weeks. Or even most, or all, of training camp.
Those questions won't start to be answered until Manning gets to meet with the Colts' rehabilitation staff, a group he has trusted with his health for more than a decade now.
Fans have wondered why Manning, who also had neck surgery in March 2010 and didn't miss any camp time, had this latest surgery May 23 rather than getting it done shortly after the end of the season.
Here's the answer, according to the source: Manning, who had calcium buildup removed in March of last year, had recurring neck problems throughout the '10 season. Once February rolled around, he pursued every non-surgical option imaginable. As time went on, though, the discomfort from a disk problem continued. In May, doctors told him he had no choice but to have surgery.
One day after Manning's surgery, Colts owner Jim Irsay told reporters at the NFL meetings in Chicago, "It's usually a six- to eight-week recovery period. I think this is one you can bounce back from quickly."
Come July 31, it will be almost 10 weeks since the procedure. Barring a miracle recovery, Manning is not going to be ready for the start of camp.
It is just another one of the Colts' great unknowns as this franchise, and all the other NFL franchises, dive into the brave, new post-lockout world. Chris Polian and all the league's general managers will have three weeks to do what used to take five or six months to complete. There will be so much activity squeezed into a three-week window, analyst Adam Schefter's head may explode on ESPN.
In a lot of ways, the Colts are better suited to handle the challenges the post-lockout world will pose. They have the veteran, all-world quarterback, even if he will miss some training-camp time. They have experience at virtually every position. They've had the same offensive and defensive philosophies since time immemorial.
Common sense tells you teams like the Colts, Patriots, Steelers, Giants, Packers and others will emerge from this labor mess in better shape than teams with first-year coaches or rookie quarterbacks.
So the mad scramble begins, and here's my Colts To Do List:
1. Sign Manning to a new long-term contract.
Everything the Colts do these next few weeks is predicated on whether they can get this finished. If he plays under the franchise tag -- assuming there is a franchise tag for the 10 plaintiffs in the suit against the NFL -- that's $23 million against this year's salary cap. With a deal, they'd still be paying $20 million or so, but it's better than the first number.
There were conflicting reports Tuesday that Manning and Drew Brees wanted to be exempt from the franchise tag -- as was the case for Reggie White and other plaintiffs in the players' 1993 suit against the NFL -- for them to accept a resolution in the lawsuit.
Those reports brought a torrent of criticism at Manning and Brees, with public charges they were holding up the process for personal gain. Even another player, Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, tweeted and then went on radio to trash Manning, in particular, for what he viewed as greed and selfishness. What is it with Peyton and kickers?
But one high-ranking NFLPA executive told ESPN's Chris Mortensen, "Any media reports of a last-minute owner play by players are misleading and erroneous. There are unresolved issues and we remain focused on resolving them."
The truth? We still don't know. And until I know, I'm going to withhold an opinion.
2. Re-sign important free agents.
On my personal priority list, I'd start with Joseph Addai, then Melvin Bullitt, followed by Charlie Johnson, Clint Session, Daniel Muir, Adam Vinatieri and Antonio Johnson.
The Colts could let Addai pursue free agency with the belief he is more valuable to this team than he is another club. But that's not a risk they can afford to take, not as we embark on what is likely the last five years of Manning's career.
Without Addai, the Colts have nothing. Donald Brown has not yet shown he can stay healthy or pick up blitzes. Delone Carter is a rookie. If you let Addai check the market, and you lose him, there's very little time to fill that gaping hole.
With Bullitt, the Colts don't have alternatives. Even with him, they're thin at safety.
Johnson's value here has skyrocketed because of the lockout. In a perfect world, the Colts could have used a normal offseason to prepare offensive linemen Anthony Castonzo and Ben Ijalana to take over. But this hasn't been a normal offseason, and it's less likely either one of them, or both, will be prepared to start.
The lockout also helps Ryan Diem, who's poised to make $5.4 million this year. If the Colts could redo his contract and get him at a lower number, they would. But again, the lockout makes it impossible to know whether possible replacements are ready.
There's always the risk of overvaluing your own free agents, but it's hard to argue with the Colts' philosophy on preferring to keep their own rather than signing outside free agents.
Specifically, pray for Manning's neck. There are lots of other issues with other players -- Austin Collie, Anthony Gonzalez, etc. -- but everything begins and ends with Manning.
Just don't expect to see him in Anderson anytime soon.