Asked Tuesday by radio host Dan Patrick, his NBC "Sunday Night Football" colleague, if the Colts could reach the playoffs this season, Tony Dungy didn't pull any punches.
Manning, the NFL's only four-time MVP, has never missed a start during his professional career -- a span of 227 consecutive games -- but the quarterback is doubtful for Sunday's season opener against the Houston Texans because of lingering soreness in his back after offseason neck surgery.
Dungy said Manning wouldn't miss a game if the injury wasn't serious, so that begs the question of how long the quarterback might sit out and what implications that could have for the Colts, who have made the playoffs every season since 2001.
"I think it all depends on Peyton Manning," Dungy said. "If he misses a lot of time, I think it's going to be very difficult for them to make it. If he misses one or two games, I think they still will win the division."
"He is going to be back at some point," Polian said. "What we don't know right now is what the results of the diagnostic tests are, what is the prognosis going forward. This is uncharted territory, but we do know that the nerve regeneration takes time and it just hasn't healed yet. It will.
"It's frustrating for Peyton, certainly it's a bit frustrating for us, but we recognized that the most important thing is that he heals up and he gets ready to go. It's no sense having him out there in an impaired condition, so the bottom line is he'll be back at some point. We don't know when. We can't predict when. But whenever it is, it will be good to have him back. In the meantime, Kerry (Collins) will hold the fort, and we'll go from here."
The Colts remain in doubt as to when Manning will be able to play again, NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora reported this week, citing team and league sources. Manning and the Colts are looking for more information as to why his recovery is taking this long. Sources told La Canfora an additional surgical procedure hasn't been scheduled.