IRVING, Texas -- Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay believes the "ideal situation" would be to have a healthy Peyton Manning on the roster in 2012, along with his "heir apparent." But Irsay conceded Wednesday at the NFL's Special League Meeting that might not end up being the case.
The Colts have a $28 million option due on Manning on March 8, five days before the start of the league year. Trades aren't permitted until the league year begins, although the quarterback can alter his contract, including the date of the option.
Irsay understands that the situation with Manning, who's recovering from his third neck surgery in the last 19 months, is fluid. The 0-13 Colts also have a firm grip on the first overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Irsay pointed to the Green Bay Packers' decision to draft Aaron Rodgers in the first round six years ago and sit him for several seasons behind Brett Favre, but added "obviously Aaron Rodgers wasn't the first pick in the draft." Irsay also noted the San Francisco 49ers had Joe Montana and Steve Young on the same roster, with the caveat that "of course that was an un-capped era."
So for now, there is uncertainty about the Colts' offseason.
"It's always difficult when you're transitioning through an era," Irsay said. "And where do eras begin, and where do they officially end, and all of those sorts of things.
"That remains to be seen, but the hope is, ideally, we've always thought having Peyton play well and retire on his own terms, and having his heir apparent there would be the ideal situation. Now can that happen and will that happen? There's just too many unknown variables right now to know if it will."
Irsay said he has continued to monitor Manning's health and receives regular updates, although it's virtually certain the quarterback will not be able to practice, much less play, in 2011.
Manning has begun throwing on his own and has "slowly increased his activity," Irsay said, though there remains no timetable for the four-time NFL MVP's return.
"The good news is the fusion took place (in his neck) and he's able to increase his activities and that sort of thing," Irsay said. "He's making slow, continued progress, and that's what you'd hope for at this point."
For the immediate future, the Colts' uncertainty looks certain to continue.