According to league sources, Manning attempted to convince Colts officials and coaches that he was capable of playing in the team's final two games. He wanted to play exclusively in red-zone situations, putting him in a position where his limited arm strength wouldn't be an issue.
Almost incredibly, Manning -- whose neck muscles remained atrophied in the wake of his Sept. 9 procedure -- participated in a fully scripted 30-play session in the week before the Colts' Week 15 home game against the Titans. Manning performed in front of then-vice chairman Bill Polian, coach Jim Caldwell and offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen.
Polian was "initially frustrated" and "taken off-guard by the intensity and pace" of the session, according to the SI.com report. One day later, league sources said, the team's strength and conditioning staff explained to Polian that seeing Manning in a fast-paced workout was the only way to get a real gauge on his recovery process.
Sources said Manning's passing was accurate during the session, but he had "perhaps 80 percent of his usual velocity" (a league source told NFL Network's Albert Breer it was 85 percent). Sources also said Manning appeared "visibly fatigued."
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But Manning's hopes of playing soon were dashed when Colts team physician Hank Feuer wouldn't clear the quarterback for any on-field action, according to a league source.
"He wanted to go on the field and try to dump red-zone passes against Houston," a league source told SI.com. "Even though his neck muscles hadn't even been strengthened yet. Can you imagine anyone putting him on the field in that situation? Just to throw a string of red-zone passes? But that's where things were going at that time, and it kind of speaks to the insanity of the situation."
All this begs the question: What was Manning thinking? If the Colts were 0-14 (they were 1-13 after beating the Titans), you perhaps could make a case that Manning wanted to help save his franchise from winless infamy. A more devious mind might reason that Manning wanted to help the Colts win out, thus ensuring the team wouldn't be in position to draft Andrew Luck, his probable successor.
OK, that's highly unlikely. But then again, would you rule out anything at this point?