INDIANAPOLIS – On Sunday, quarterback Peyton Manning concluded the toughest season of his career.
Manning was not able to play a single one of the team's 951 offensive plays in 2011. He spent the entire season rehabilitating from off-season and September neck surgeries.
It was a difficult time for a quarterback who opened an NFL-record 208 consecutive games to start a career. Until this season, Manning had missed only one play during his career due to injury, and that single play came in 2001 after he suffered a broken jaw.
The Colts went through three starting quarterbacks in 2011 – Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky – and the organization went through an arduous campaign in which it had a 2-14 record.
Indianapolis will hold the top pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Speculation has been a constant companion of the club through the latter weeks of the season. The draft still is a good period of time away, and Manning declined to join the conjecture of what the club's plans might be. He did point out, however, he would be able to get along with whomever the club might select and regardless of position.
"That's something I haven't thought a whole lot about," said Manning. "The draft is four months away. The Colts are going to do what they have to do. The draft is something the personnel department will address. They will deal with that as they see fit.
"As far as can I co-exist with anybody? I think I can co-exist with any player I've ever played with. I've always been a good teammate that way. To speculate on who we're going to draft, that's probably more for other people to do."
Speaking after the team's 19-13 loss at Jacksonville, an outcome that determined the club's position in the selection process, Manning stressed he would not enter into any speculation from observers of Indianapolis.
"That's a speculative question," said Manning on if he could exist with a quarterback if the team made that choice. "I consider myself a teammate that can play with anybody. …That's all going to shake out. Things are going to shake out."
Manning and a number of his teammates fielded questions about possible personnel changes that could occur in the off-season. Change is a constant in the NFL, just as it has been during a period of immense achievement by Manning and a number of his Colts counterparts. He acknowledged the possibility that always has existed, but will focus only on improving his physical status.
"That is part of it (the business of football and the off-season)," said Manning. "We all know that. To speculate on what's going to change, I just can't do that. There are decisions to be made on a number of people, including myself. I'm very aware of that. I think I heard (Jeff) Saturday say (a moment ago), you kind of control what you can control. … I'm not into giving out a farewell or a final say until I know what's going to happen for anybody. I think it's well documented about how I feel about all the players, coaches and management … the way people have been to me. I think they know how I feel about them. We'll see how it all shakes out.
"I'm going to continue to rehab, try to get healthy. I'm going to be one of the few people not to give reports on my rehab and the progress. I'll continue to rehab and try to get better, and that's all I'll say about that."
Manning declined to predict where his rehabilitation will be in March. More of the immediate essence is Monday when all players take season-ending physicals. It has been mentioned that Manning would not pass the physical and would continue uninterrupted rehabilitation. He did not address the specifics of the situation but says if it allows a quicker process, it is fine with him.
"I don't know. That's kind of news to me. I could pass, I don't know," said Manning of Monday's physical. "I don't know how that works. I think part of it is just paperwork, somewhat, that allows you to rehab at the facility and use (Director of Rehabilitation) Erin (Barill). It's new to me, the whole CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement), and there are a lot of things I learned this year. All that is kind of new to me. … Not rehabbing at the facility this off-season was tough. You go to a place (and) you're rehabbing (and) the lady next to you is getting her bunions worked on. … If that's what I have to do (failing the physical) in order to rehab, then I guess I'm glad that I will fail it."