- Associated Press - Monday, October 31, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Bill Polian plans to keep Peyton Manning on the active roster all season _ even if it means he’ll only be back to practice.

While the Colts’ vice chairman isn’t completely ruling out a late cameo appearance by the four-time MVP this season, he’s hoping Manning will be able to throw at the team’s complex before the season ends.

“I think it’s important for him to feel like, `Hey I’m back, I can do the things that are necessary to say I can play like I want to,’” Polian said Monday night on his weekly radio show. “The bottom line is he needs to feel good about being back and doing the things he wants to do.”

Manning has not practiced with his teammates much since January’s playoff loss to the New York Jets.

He worked out with some Colts players during the lockout before scaling things back after having May neck surgery to repair a damaged nerve that caused weakness in his throwing arm. Just about everyone, including Manning, thought he’d be ready by training camp.

When the recovery didn’t go as planned, Manning opened the season on the physically unable to perform list, missed all four preseason games and wound up having another procedure, an anterior spinal fusion to clear up the problem just three days before the season opener at Houston.

The fusion normally 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.

It was Manning’s third neck surgery in 19 months, and doctors who were not involved in the procedure said Manning wouldn’t be cleared to practice for at least two months.

Since then, Manning has been seen walking briskly around the team’s practice fields, teammates have said he attends meetings and provides advice and Polian has told listeners that Manning has gradually “ramped up” his activity.

On Oct. 6, Manning told reporters he’d finally been cleared to stand on the sideline, a major sign of progress because he could take an inadvertent hit.

But at 0-8 and with the playoffs seemingly out of reach, there’s one big reason to push Manning to practice _ finding out how close Indy’s franchise quarterback is to 100 percent.

“That is much more important to us because we know he’s not going to play six or seven more years,” Polian said, reiterating that Manning is nearing the end of his career and again pointing out that Manning needs to feel he can still play at a high level.

Manning signed a five-year, $90 million deal in late July, just before camp opened. The team can opt out of the deal after this season, though nobody in the organization has discussed the possibility.

And if they have the No. 1 draft pick, many believe they will take Andrew Luck as Manning’s eventual successor.

But it’s unlikely the Colts would play Manning in meaningless December games when they haven’t played him much in previous Decembers after the Colts traditionally clinch their playoff seed, and there’s another reason for keeping him on the bench this year, too.

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