By Chris Mortensen
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning had further neck surgery Thursday, the team announced, his third surgery in the past 19 months.
Manning decided to have the surgery after consultation with a half-dozen doctors who reached a consensus that the most viable option would be a one-level cervical neck fusion in the wake of his May 23 surgery to repair a bulging disk. It's unclear whether Manning would be able to return to play this season.
The team said in a statement Thursday that the surgery was "uneventful" and that it would not place Manning on season-ending injured reserve and instead keep him on the active roster.
"This procedure is performed regularly throughout the country on persons from all walks of life, including professional football players. Two former Colts players had this same procedure last winter and have fully resumed their careers," the team said in the statement.
"Rehabilitation from such surgery is typically an involved process. Therefore, there will be no estimation of a return date at this time."
The team said that Manning immediately would begin the rehabilitation program prescribed by his surgeon.
Manning was unavailable for comment, as was his agent, Tom Condon. His father, Archie, and brother, Cooper, whose college career was ended by a severe neck injury, would not specifically address Peyton's surgical decision.
Archie Manning, a former NFL quarterback, only spoke of his son's state of mind.
"I think he's OK, probably because there's a little finality to this deal in terms of playing," the elder Manning told Mortensen. "He's been on the clock since May. He didn't make it. Obviously, it's a big letdown, but he can relax a little bit compared to the intensity of everything he has done trying to rehab."
Earlier Thursday, without confirming any pending surgery for brother Peyton, Cooper Manning told ESPN that a cervical fusion would be a logical step after his brother's slow recovery and setback last week when he experienced more upper back and neck pain.
"Everyone is different, but I've had a fusion and I've known players who have had fusions and went on to play football. ... You can get a pretty good range of motion back and much more stability once it heals," said Cooper, the oldest of three brothers that include quarterbacks Peyton and Eli.
Cooper said he did not have specific knowledge on a decision regarding another operation for Peyton.
"You know Peyton and how he values his privacy even within a very tight family like we have," he said. "We've exchanged some short texts and I've given him his space. He's had a lot going on."
Manning will miss his first NFL game when the Colts open the 2011 season Sunday against the Houston Texans. He had made 227 consecutive starts counting playoff games, including the Super Bowl the Colts won capping the 2006 season. The four-time MVP is 35 years old.
Manning was hopeful that four months of therapy after his May 23 surgery would allow him to resume normal football activity, but his progress was minimal with nerve regeneration and his triceps area remained weak, not allowing him to throw a football with reasonable velocity. He was taken off the PUP (physically unable to play) list last week so he could practice on a limited basis as a part of his therapy in hopes of making progress and measuring his readiness.
However, Manning's progress "plateaued" and pain returned to his upper back and neck region, which initiated a new set of diagnostic tests and the recent prognosis that an anterior cervical fusion would be a wise course of action, sources said.
On Wednesday, in an interview with ESPN 1050 in New York, Colts vice chairman Bill Polian revealed that Manning would not play the opener Sunday at Houston. Manning confirmed the decision in a statement later Wednesday.
Chris Mortensen is ESPN's senior NFL analyst.