While the Colts' vice chairman isn't completely ruling out a late cameo appearance by the four-time NFL MVP this season, he hopes Manning will be able to throw at the team's complex before the season ends.
"I think it's important for him to feel like, 'Hey I'm back, I can do the things that are necessary to say I can play like I want to,' " Polian said Monday night on his weekly radio show. "The bottom line is he needs to feel good about being back and doing the things he wants to do."
Manning hasn't practiced with his teammates much since January's playoff loss to the New York Jets. He worked out with some Colts players during the NFL lockout before scaling things back after having May neck surgery to repair a damaged nerve that caused weakness in his throwing arm. Just about everyone, including Manning, believed the quarterback would be ready by training camp, but he needed another procedure just three days before the season opener at Houston.
Since then, Manning has been seen briskly walking around the team's practice fields, teammates have said he attends meetings and provides advice, and Polian has told listeners that the quarterback has gradually "ramped up" his activity. On Oct. 6, Manning told reporters he'd finally been cleared to stand on the sideline, a major sign of progress because he could take an inadvertent hit.
But with the Colts 0-8 and the playoffs seemingly out of reach, there's only one big reason to push Manning to practice -- finding out how close Indianapolis' franchise quarterback is to 100 percent.
"That is much more important to us because we know he's not going to play six or seven more years," Polian said, reiterating that Manning is nearing the end of his career and again pointing out the quarterback needs to feel he still can play at a high level.
"I'm not sure we would necessarily play him in ballgames with our offensive line as beaten up as it is right now," Polian said.
The Colts already was trying to rebuild their line this season after using a first-round draft pick on tackle Anthony Castonzo and a second-round selection on tackle Ben Ijalana. But injuries have forced Indianapolis to replace three opening-day starters along the line and move a fourth to another position.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press