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The Early Lead
Posted at 04:41 PM ET, 12/02/2011

With Peyton Manning’s neck healing, will winless Colts aim for Andrew Luck?


What will the future hold for Peyton Manning? (Andy Lyons - Getty Images)

Update 4:30 p.m. — Sidelined Colts quarterback Peyton Manning told reporters Friday that he has “been doing some throwing” and will continue to ramp up his rehabilitation as he works to recover from spinal fusion surgery in early September.

Original post

Peyton Manning’s recovery from spinal fusion surgery has been an agonizingly slow process for Indianapolis Colts fans. But Manning is improving, and on Wednesday the 35-year-old quarterback offered more hope for a full recovery.

“I am encouraged with what Doc had to say,” Manning said one day after his latest monthly checkup with Dr. Robert Watkins. “I am happy that I can increase my rehabilitation program as outlined by him ... and the Colts’ medical staff. I am hopeful for continued progress in this next phase of my rehab.”

The update should provide some solace for a Colts fan base that has yet to experience a victory this season after nine straight seasons of double-digit victories.

But it only adds further intrigue to the franchise’s draft plans as the team slips closer to locking up the top pick in the 2012 draft with each passing week.

Is Manning healthy enough to be the Colts’ quarterback for years to come? Should they draft Andrew Luck as his successor? Or his replacement?

The “Andrew Luck Sweepstakes” was one of the hottest topics in the NFL early on this season with the Colts, Rams, Dolphins, and several other teams stumbling out of the gates. But at 0-11, the Colts are two games ahead of the rest of the league’s bottom-feeders and will likely drop to 0-12 after this week’s matchup with the Patriots.

Manning has not practiced since Sept. 8 and then went under the knife for his third neck surgery in 19 months — the most complicated and risky of them all.


Is this the next Aaron Rodgers? (Paul Sakuma - AP)
“There still is no timetable for Peyton’s return to practice, which is one of many steps in his expected return to game action,” Watkins said in a team-issued statement Thursday night. “He is working hard on a rehabilitation program. ... His response to this plan in the future will dictate his return date.”

Colts team vice chairman Bill Polian refuted the possibility of Manning retiring during his weekly radio show and the possibility of bringing in the Heisman Trophy candidate from Stanford to serve as his understudy (with the hopes of an Aaron Rodgers-like ascension) seems appetizing. Manning gave his stamp of approval for drafting a quarterback and Polian said last week that the price of having both Manning on Luck on the same roster would not deter them from drafting the latter.

But as Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz writes, this may be a time when finances should be the focus for a team that needs rebuild:

“It’s either Manning or Luck, Luck or Manning.
“Do you spend mega-millions to take a chance on a 36-year-old quarterback who has endured three neck surgeries in 19 months, or a highly touted rookie who will cost next-to-nothing and whose minimal cap hit will allow the team to spend lots of cash surrounding him with talent?
Either you're building for now, or you're building for the future. Given these circumstances, it's impossible to do both. For the umpteenth time, this is not another Aaron Rodgers situation; he was the 24th pick in the draft. Luck will be the first pick in the draft, and he will have the leverage that comes with being the first pick in the draft.
It hurts to say it, to write it, to think it, but it's time for the Indianapolis Colts to move on — whether Manning tells us he has a clean bill of health or is still struggling to recover.”

What’s your take? Should the Colts stick with Manning and deal the No. 1 pick? Is Peyton’s injury situation too risky and Luck’s talent to tantalizing not to go with the rookie? Is it worth it to keep both?

More on Manning and the Colts

Colts ready to ramp up Manning’s workload, but unsure when he will practice

The League: Colts should keep Manning and draft Luck

Early Lead: Manning “is okay” with Colts drafting a quarterback

The League: Peyton’s place could be D.C.

Colts fire defensive coach, change quarterbacks after 0-11 start

By  |  04:41 PM ET, 12/02/2011

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