INDIANAPOLIS – The start of the 2011 NFL regular season is set to launch on Thursday, and the majority of the league's teams are six days away from their openers.
The Colts are one of those teams preparing for a Sunday opener. On Monday, the club stated quarterback Peyton Manning is 'likely to be doubtful' for Sunday.
Manning was taken off the Physically Unable to Perform list last week as the club drew near to the end of training camp. He had been on the list since the start of camp following neck surgery on May 23.
During the last week, Manning's rehabilitation process slowed a bit and he experienced back soreness. As the team addresses the matter, Manning will not practice. His progress will be monitored.
Manning (54,828) is one of 12 NFL quarterbacks ever to throw for more than 40,000 career yards. Should he not be able to add to that total this Sunday, Indianapolis possesses another of the 11 quarterbacks to do so, Kerry Collins.
The Colts signed the 17-year veteran, the only player on the roster whose entry into the league pre-dates Manning's, on August 25. Collins was a first-round pick by Carolina in 1995, and he also has been a starter for New Orleans, the New York Giants, Oakland and Tennessee. Collins has passed for 40,441 yards during his previous 16 seasons.
Should Sunday be the time for Collins to add to his career total, he will be ready.
"I am getting ready to play, and that's the bottom line," said Collins on Monday. "(I'm) working and just getting ready to play. There's a lot that we're going to have to get ready for this week. I'm excited for the challenge, and I'm going to bust my tail this week to get ready to play."
Collins signed with the Colts prior to the third preseason game against Green Bay. He was not able to play in that contest and had only a handful of practices before starting the finale at Cincinnati on September 1. He directed the club for the first half, hitting five of 10 passes for 45 yards.
Center Jeff Saturday was among the veterans who opened in week four of the preseason to give Collins a semblance of the starting offense. The attack did not include wide receivers Reggie Wayne, Anthony Gonzalez, Pierre Garcon or Austin Collie, nor did it include tight end Dallas Clark or running back Joseph Addai. Still, the five-time Pro Bowl center liked what he saw from Collins.
"I thought he did really well against Cincinnati," said Saturday. "He only had three practices up until then. I think he's done a good job of working and learning the offense. I can't imagine trying to learn something as complicated just as quickly as he has. He did a great job, put the ball where it needed to be. There are little things we need to clean up but other than that, I've got full confidence that if he's the guy we'll be ready."
Collins is aware that Manning still is a possibility to play on Sunday. He will approach this week's practices keeping in mind that he could play or that he would play.
"I'm going to prepare hard either way," said Collins. "With Peyton's status still in question, I'm taking the mindset that I'm going to prepare that I'm going to play on Sunday."
While knowing for sure will have to wait, Collins wants a good week of work.
"Obviously, the more reps I can get, the better," he said. "I've worked in this situation before where it does come down to the latter part of the week. Obviously, to know sooner rather than later will definitely help my mindset going throughout the week."
There are very few things Collins has not experienced in the NFL over 16 seasons. Even the matter of not knowing whether or not he would start is something Collins has experienced, and he knows how to handle it.
"(Tennessee Head Coach) Jeff (Fisher) used to…keep people waiting (or) guessing throughout the week to see if the starter's going to play, if it was going to be me or whatever," he said. "It's just part of it. In no way is it going to affect my preparation. My preparation is going to be the same, getting in the meeting rooms, studying, watch film…just get ready to play."
Though he has only two quarters actual experience running the offense and he still is getting to know the personnel, Collins has a good feeling about the progress he has made.
"I feel comfortable with the offense. I feel like I've come a long way in a short time since I've been here," he said. "I've really buckled down and grinded on it and certainly I've got a lot to learn. As far as my comfort level, it's pretty high."
Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell has known Collins for the better part of 20 years, tutoring the signal-caller at Penn State then watching him perform for many years on the NFL stage. Caldwell likes the work Collins has done to this point and where he is in grasping one of the league's best offenses.
"He's making really good progress and he's working extremely hard at it. He's been working overtime at it," said Caldwell. "That's what this week is for, when we can really focus in on what he's going to have to do during the course of a game that he'll be fine. It's not as if we're dealing with somebody that hasn't been in a lot of games. He understands concepts and systems. He'll be able to function, I think, very, very well. We don't expect him to be perfect. We have to have some other guys kind of step up and give him assistance here and there, which we do. We have a lot of guys who do that. I think he'll be fine."