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Colts’ Manning doubtful for opener against Houston

Associated Press / September 6, 2011

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The unthinkable suddenly seems possible in Indianapolis - opening the season without Peyton Manning.

The four-time league-MVP who has never missed a start in his NFL career is doubtful for Sunday’s game at Houston because of lingering soreness in his back following offseason neck surgery. If Manning sits, it would be the first time the NFL’s active iron man missed a meaningful game after 227 consecutive starts including the playoffs.

Manning had surgery to repair a nerve May 23, but the recovery has taken longer than the expected 6-8 weeks that would have put him back on the field for the start of training camp. Instead, Manning started camp on the physically unable to perform list and wasn’t activated till last Monday.

He did limited work at practice last week, which led to back pain. The team issued a statement yesterday saying that team doctors evaluated Manning over the weekend and instructed him to stop practicing while he undergoes more tests.

The question is whether the Colts can survive without their franchise quarterback, whose streak stands second in NFL history to Brett Favre’s among all QBs.

Tressel’s duties on hold The Colts won’t use former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel as a replay consultant until the seventh game of the season. The team recently announced it would employ Tressel as a game-day consultant. In a statement, Colts vice chairman Bill Polian said that “questions were raised with respect to the equity of his appointment as opposed to suspensions being served this season by present and former Ohio State players.’’

Meriweather turns corner Brandon Meriweather, who is coming off back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons, insisted he’s just looking forward to a fresh start with the Bears and had nothing but praise for the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick.

“I have a lot of respect for that organization,’’ he said. “I have a lot of respect for Bill and the rest of the people, the rest of the staff there, but that’s behind me.’’

Meriweather called the Bears “a first-class organization’’ and said he hopes to be ready for the opener against Atlanta. He also sidestepped questions about his role and the reasons the Patriots gave for releasing him.

“That’s between me and coach,’’ Meriweather said. “I’m sure if you called Bill and asked him, I’m sure he’d give you all the details.’’

Said Bears coach Lovie Smith, “I don’t see what Belichick has to do with us. We make our decisions based on what we see. We like Brandon being a part of our team.’’

Briggs is not happy Lance Briggs made it clear again he wants to be traded if the Bears won’t restructure his contract at some point. Briggs, a six-time Pro Bowl linebacker, believes his days with the organization “are numbered’’ because management is unwilling to renegotiate. The team is not budging with three years left on a six-year, $36 million deal . . . Redskins coach Mike Shanahan announced Rex Grossman as the starting quarterback, giving the nine-year veteran the nod over John Beck for Sunday’s season opener against the Giants . . . Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora probably will miss the opener. The two-time Pro Bowl defensive end had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Aug. 19, and coach Tom Coughlin said he hasn’t progressed enough to play . . . Saints coach Sean Payton agreed to an extension through 2015 . . . The Vikings signed linebacker Chad Greenway to a five-year contract. The Vikings didn’t disclose the terms, but the St. Paul Pioneer Press, citing a person with direct knowledge of the deal, reported that it’s worth $41 million including $20 million guaranteed.

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