Irsay said doctors haven't ruled out a return this year for Manning, and if the medical and coaching staffs believe the quarterback could come back late in the season to spur momentum into 2012, he could take the field. However, Irsay said it's "less than 50 percent" that Manning will return.
Manning underwent his third neck surgery -- his second this year -- in September.
Irsay, who's in town for the NFL Fall Meeting, added that the Colts would seriously consider drafting a quarterback with a high pick next spring if they were in the running to do so. Irsay cited how Aaron Rodgers developed under Brett Favre in Green Bay as an example of how that could work -- a theory that, of course, is based on Manning's return next season.
"It would be a dilemma," Irsay said. "It's only October. We still have a long ways to go."