Peyton Manning underwent more neck surgery Thursday, the third time in 19 months, and will miss not only the opening game but possibly the entire season.
Losing Manning for any stretch of time is a huge blow to the Colts and throws the race for the AFC South wide open. The four-time NFL MVP hasn't missed a game in 14 NFL seasons, with 227 consecutive starts, including postseason.
"Rehabilitation from such surgery is typically an involved process," the team said in a statement, calling the procedure "uneventful."
"Therefore, there will be no estimation of a return date at this time. We will keep Peyton on the active roster until we have a clear picture of his recovery process."
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The Colts' statement came just hours after team owner Jim Irsay wrote on Twitter that the 35-year-old Manning would be out "awhile." The Colts could have put Manning on injured reserve to open up a roster spot, but that would have meant he would not play at all in a season that will end in February with the Super Bowl played at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Team officials said Manning had an anterior fusion procedure to treat the nerve problem that was continuing to give him trouble months after his May 23 surgery.
The Colts didn't provide details, but such a procedure usually involves making an incision in the front of the neck, removing soft disk tissue between the vertebrae and fusing the bones together with a graft. The goal is to ease pain or address a disk problem.
Recovery from the procedure typically takes at least eight to 10 weeks, said Dr. Victor Khabie, co-chief of the Orthopedics and Spine Institute at Northern Westchester Hospital in New York.
ESPN has MNF through '21
ESPN agreed with the NFL on an eight-year contract extension that keeps Monday Night Football on the network through the 2021 season, boosts the amount of programming shown on the already football-saturated family of networks, and brings it to phones and tablets. The deal is worth $1.9 billion a year for a total of $15.2 billion over the length of the contract, two people with knowledge of the agreement told The Associated Press. ESPN's current deal is worth $1.1 billion a year to the NFL.
Around the league
Giants: Two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Justin Tuck didn't practice Thursday because of a sore neck, and he indicated he would not play in the season opener against the Redskins unless it improved. "I am concerned but I am not panicked," Tuck said.
Dolphins: Two-time Pro Bowl running back Larry Johnson, struggling to prolong his career, re-signed with Miami. The move came five days after the Dolphins cut Johnson.