When we saw Peyton Manning during NBC’s frequent (but not too frequent) gazes into the Colts’ press box last night, he had a headset on, giving him the ability to call plays, audibles, and/or fake audibles directly into the helmet of whoever happened to be the failing Colts quarterback at the time. Who knows, maybe he really was, because Indy needs to try everything. A concussed Sidney Crosby can direct traffic on the power play with a headset, so there’s hope.

That’s all Manning will have now in 2011, as the four-time MVP will be restricted to press box duty after Colts owner Jim Irsay made the announcement we’ve all expected since Manning had his third neck procedure in 15 months earlier in September. At a breakfast meeting for Super Bowl donors Monday morning Irsay said Manning won’t play a snap of competitive football until 2012, according WISHTV 8 in Indianapolis.

Irsay also said Manning won’t practice until December, giving him roughly eight months to prepare for next summer’s training camp. For the remainder of this season then we’ll be forced to watch a struggling Colts team that was already slotted in for prime time games (like last night, and next Monday night).

Albert Breer of NFL Network said that for normal people who aren’t finely-tuned athletic machines, the nerve regeneration process Manning is going through takes nine-to-12 months. This is a process that’s clearly unpredictable, which we’ve already seen after it was first estimated Manning would miss only the first few games of this season.

The unpredictable nature of Manning’s injury also meant that as of late last April at the draft his recovery from surgery in January was difficult to gauge, which likely led to Indy’s fleeting ambition to draft and develop a young quarterback. Under normal circumstances we would now go on a mini rant chastising Bill Polian’s draft strategy, and noting that while the public remains in the dark, the Colts’ medical staff has access to Manning, and should therefore have far more insight into the seriousness of such a delicate injury.

You’re not reading that rant right now because of a rather historic offseason event we all had to endure. While it’s true that some prior knowledge should have still existed, there was nearly two months between the beginning of the lockout and the draft. The Colts’ medical staff was barred from accessing Manning, leaving them in the dark about his progress nearly as much as us.

UPDATE: Irsay has clarified his reported breakfast announcement, saying that everything remains status quo, and that there’s still an outside chance of a Manning sighting in September.

That’s a shame, because I thought my original “officially official” headline was rather clever. This is likely a case of Irsay quickly backtracking after becoming a little too relaxed with his words during a public appearance. Now he wants to ensure we’re all well aware that Manning’s status hasn’t changed and the team isn’t ending his season by taking him off of the active roster.

Regardless of Irsay’s motivation for the quick clarification, the chances of Manning playing in 2011 remain very slim.

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