We knew this would happen. We knew that after Peyton Manning didn’t play a single snap in the 2011 season and with the deadline for his $28 million bonus in just over a month, we’d become buried in Manning updates daily during Super Bowl week. We were warned.

But what’s been refreshing or at least tolerable about this storyline that won’t go away is something that past persistent NFL narratives often haven’t had: new information and/or developing angles. So as I write our fourth Peyton-related post this week on just Wednesday evening, let’s remember that we haven’t reached the point yet where the sole driver of this story is baseless speculation (think Favre, Brett).

There will be plenty of time for that next week.

Yesterday Manning spoke because he wanted to promote Gatorade everyone to know that rumors of his demise have been greatly exaggerated. He said his recovery from neck surgery is still on schedule, and that he plans to be playing when the 2012 season starts next fall.

That painted a pretty rosy picture with bright rainbows and tiny sea crustaceans reaching for the sun. Today it was Jim Irsay’s turn to speak, and he wasn’t a menacing dark cloud that stormed in to blacken that pleasant sky. It was more like one of those gray clouds that hovers for an entire day and takes away enough sunlight that the day sucks, and it threatens to rain without actually raining.

He was a reality cloud. You know, the kind that rains reality. Those are worst kind.

During his press conference today Irsay poured that bucket of reality water on Manning’s optimism for a full and complete recovery, saying that his injury is so unique that he’ll now be written into medical textbooks as a case study for severe neck injuries.

“It’s a very complicated medical issue. There are a lot of things that get lost in the shuffle in looking at the situation. One of the things is you just haven’t seen this in an NFL quarterback at all. When you try to consult doctors literally worldwide in terms of what are the expectations, what are the dangers, the risks, the aspects of coming back from it, no one can give you a definitive answer. It’s one of those things where even some of the doctors said if this came up again that it’s going to be something people are going to rely on as trying to have some sort of historic reference medically to look back on. It’s very unusual. It’s been going on for almost a year.”

Irsay also said that a time line “isn’t a factor,” and that although a conversation will take place after the nation’s football media leave town following the Super Bowl, that talking will continue for days, weeks, and right through until the March 8 deadline. That deadline could theoretically be pushed back to give Manning more time to recuperate if he feels as though he’s close, a decision that Irsay said isn’t “impossible by any stretch” if both parties agree.

NFL Network’s Rich Eisen also had a one-on-one sit down interview with Irsay, and the Colts owner repeated many of the same comments while adding that he doesn’t know what’s going to happen, and neither does Manning. But he does know that having two high-end quarterbacks–Manning and likely Andrew Luck–on the same roster is difficult and unwise under the salary cap, especially when one of those quarterbacks could be a fraction of his former Hall of Fame-caliber self.

Manning is throwing, but throwing shape and playing shape are separated by a wide chasm at this point. Uncertainty still lingers and dominates the discussion, and what’s important to remember is that although Manning may indeed be progressing and feeling better, Irsay and the Colts organization can’t say with definitive confidence how much progress is enough progress.

The franchise quarterback has been a neck injury lab rat for quite some time now, and we may have just another month to keep peering through the cage.