INDIANAPOLIS – Quarterback Peyton Manning will not be in the starting lineup on Sunday when the Colts open the 2011 season at Houston.
Manning continues to rehabilitate from neck surgery in May, and he will miss his first career game.
In a statement released by the team, Manning said: "To say I am disappointed in not being able to play is an understatement. The best part about football is being out there on the field playing with my teammates. It will be tough not to be out there playing for the organization and our fans. I simply am not healthy enough to play, and I am doing everything I can to get my health back. The team will do fine without me, and I know for sure that I will miss them much more than they will miss me."
"He's (Peyton Manning) not going to be with us this weekend," said Colts head coach Jim Caldwell. "Kerry Collins will be the starting quarterback…We shall move forward. It will be a little different playing without Peyton. He's obviously one-of-a-kind. He's certainly been a great player for us. He will be back at some point in time."
Caldwell indicated the certainty of the situation became more evident on Wednesday.
"It was still doubtful and we always knew there was a chance (he could not play). That's what 'doubtful' means," said Caldwell. "You always have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best…You have to be able to make adjustments and move forward."
Manning opened the first 208 games of his career and to this point had only missed one career snap due to injury, that being in 2001. Manning's career-opening streak was the best in NFL history at any position, eclipsing the prior mark of 207 by Hall-of-Fame offensive guard Gene Upshaw (1967-81). The streak ranked second to Brett Favre's 297 consecutive games for the most by a quarterback.
Collins will inherit the offense this week that has been operated exclusively by Manning since the start of the 1998 season. Manning famously conducted the offense with an array of audibles and with a success level that saw him pass for 54,828 yards and 399 touchdowns, along with notching an NFL-record 11 4,000 passing seasons.
Collins (40,441) joins Manning as one of 12 NFL quarterbacks to top 40,000 career passing yards while serving as a starting quarterback for five different teams (Carolina, New Orleans, New York Giants, Oakland, Tennessee) since being a first-round pick in the 1995 draft.
Collins was signed by the club on August 25, and he has been learning the offense on an accelerated pace. While he will not have the entire grasp of the attack that Manning has, he will do more than 'manage' the position.
"We give him (Manning) a lot more latitude because he's been in it so long (and) understands it so well. The great majority of it he was present for it at its inception, so he has a bit better working knowledge than anybody that's ever run this particular scheme. We certainly have not given anybody the kind of latitude we've given him. It will be somewhat reduced.
"We have to look at things that fit his (Collins) skill set. The guy's thrown for 40,000 yards. He can throw the ball. He does a nice job within his offensive scheme. What we have to is look at some the things we do and see if we can match with things he is very familiar with and make adjustments accordingly, within the concept of our scheme. That's something we've been working on and certainly putting into place. We think that will help."
Collins is up for the challenge he is facing, and he is confident he can thrive.
"I expect to run the offense, bottom line," said Collins. "That's to make the plays when they are there, be smart with the ball, make good reads, good decisions, get us in the right plays when the situation calls for it. I'm going into this week thinking I'm going to go out there and run the offense the best I can."
Collins feels he has made progress in learning the club's offense, a task he has undertaken seriously for the past couple of weeks.
"Each day comes and I learn something new and something different," said Collins. "I really do feel like I've come a long way in a short period of time. Now that we're into game-planning, things are a little bit more focused and a little more centralized on what we're trying to accomplish. My comfort level is still pretty high."
Collins played from 2006-10 with Tennessee, so he has a working knowledge of the AFC South and the Houston Texans. This time, however, he will see a different defense than he has faced in the past.
"We're trying to come together with the best game plan we can, but also realizing that we are facing a familiar opponent with a different kind of defense," said Collins. "They've changed from a 4-3 to a 3-4. It seems like they've taken to it really well. They're playing hard and playing fast. It's going to be a big challenge for us."
Caldwell has known Collins for the better part of 20 years when the pair worked together at Penn State. Caldwell was the position coach at the outset of Collins' outstanding collegiate career. He has known the player's work ethic for a long time.
"He's working extremely hard at it," said Caldwell. "Guys don't last that long in the league like he's lasted in terms of years of service without having a great work ethic, which he has. He has been determined to get things right, to be able to certainly make the adjustments we need to make and also function within the scheme of the offense. He's worked extremely hard at that. It's been good. (Quarterbacks coach) Ron Turner has spent a lot of time with him. He's been in here early mornings and late at night. I do think he's handling things pretty well."
As for Collins, he will take the field with 10 new teammates at the starting bell on Sunday. When asked if he ever played on an offense with as much firepower as what he has in Indianapolis, he said, "I have not. Maybe going back to Penn State, but maybe not even then. It's really impressive."