Peyton Manning and Jim Irsay agree on one thing: The Manning Era isn’t over in Indianapolis.
Manning said yesterday he hopes to return to practice this year and still holds out hope of playing if doctors say he is finally healed from his Sept. 8 neck surgery. Irsay, the Colts’ owner, said he expects the four-time MVP still has some good years left.
There are some big questions looming. The Colts must decide whether to opt out of Manning’s five-year contract or pay a $28 million bonus to keep him on the roster. And if they have a high draft pick next year, the Colts will have to decide whether to take Manning’s heir apparent, someone like Andrew Luck or Landry Jones.
“It’s something you talk about and scenarios, who could be behind Peyton and how long you want him to sit and how much money you have committed to quarterbacks,’’ Irsay said. “I think theoretically, you could have Peyton for two or three more good years and then have someone behind him, but that’s theoretical.’’
Manning hasn’t played since having surgery to repair a damaged nerve that caused weakness in his throwing arm. It was his third neck procedure in 19 months.
“I think it’s too early to bury this era,’’ Irsay said.
A few hours earlier, Manning made his second impromptu locker room appearance of the season, telling reporters that he’s spending every day in rehab and that he hopes to practice with his teammates in December and play in a game this season.
But he hasn’t been cleared for football activity by the doctors. Irsay said there was less than a 50 percent chance Manning would appear in a game this season.
Without their franchise quarterback, the Colts are 0-8 for the first time since 1997.
“I miss playing, I really do. If I get cleared to play and I’m good enough, would I play? Absolutely,’’ he said. “I’d love to because that’s how I’m wired, that’s my job and I love my job.’’
Broncos running back Willis McGahee says his broken right hand shouldn’t hinder him Sunday at Oakland.
McGahee practiced yesterday for the second straight day and was able to carry the ball in either hand.
McGahee missed last Sunday’s game after undergoing an operation to insert screws and a plate into his right hand, which he broke on a defender’s face mask at Miami a week earlier.
McGahee said he’s not worried about defenders targeting his right hand because he can always cover it with his left hand.
“If they do, then I’ll go after them,’’ he said. “I will get the last laugh.’’
LT: Rivers distracted
LaDainian Tomlinson said he thinks Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers “seems distracted,’’ and was stunned Monday night when his ex-teammate fumbled a snap near the end of regulation of an OT loss to the Chiegs.
Tomlinson, in his second season with the Jets, wouldn’t speculate when asked if Rivers, who has thrown an NFL-high 11 interceptions, is struggling because he’s not healthy. He said it could be the result of the pressure of being a leader. “On the sideline, he seems like he’s just distracted,’’ said Tomlinson. “And I’ve always said this, ‘It’s hard to be The Guy.’ ’’
Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb said his injured right toe feels “a lot better’’ and neither he nor coach Ken Whisenhunt would rule him out of Sunday’s game against the Rams. Still, Kolb did not practice for the second day in a row, leaving a strong possibility that backup John Skelton will get the start . . . Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson missed his second straight day of practice because of a hamstring injury, but was feeling better and is expected to return to practice today . . . Browns running back Peyton Hillis made it through his first practice in a week without any trouble and intends to play Sunday. Hillis has missed the last two games with a strained left hamstring Oct. 16 . . . Rex Ryan is teaming up with Adam Sandler for a new movie in which the Jets coach will play a Patriots fan. Sandler says Ryan was “loose and funny’’ about playing “a mammoth Patriots fan’’ who talks about Bill Belichick and Tom Brady - a detail that was written into the script for the Jets coach.