Colts expect to move on without Manning for first week

"Next man up" just doesn't do it justice.

Not for him. Not for the position.

Peyton Manning is beyond a franchise player, more of a franchise creator since his play helped rise the Indianapolis-era Colts to the upper echelon of the National Football League.

Players have gone down, from offense to defense to special teams, and the team managed to find a way to replace that person while keep a decade-long playoff streak in tact.

But not number 18-who has started 208 consecutive games since being drafted number one by the Colts in 1998. Manning has been the mark of consistency not only for the team but for the NFL as well.

That changed Monday, when the Colts somewhat confirmed Sunday reports by saying that Manning is doubtful for Sunday's NFL season opener against the Houston Texans.

Many of the players in the Colts' locker room on Monday, however, seem to think that "out" will be a more appropriate term for their quarterback, who'll likely miss his first NFL game of his career.

"I'm sure its killing him," said receiver Anthony Gonzales when asked how difficult the injury has been for Manning. "I have not spoken to him but just knowing him and knowing how hard he was working, just how many hours he was putting into his rehab, I'm sure its weighing on him pretty heavily."

Yet perhaps out of denial, or maybe just a reflex, the Colts insist they can move on from the loss of Manning. Yes, there was even or mention of the "next man up" mantra as the team gets ready to hand the ball to Kerry Collins against the Texans.

"It's got to be," said center Jeff Saturday when asked if this is a case of "Next Man Up". "You can't look any different. We're still going to be 53 guys that have to go play so however it shakes down and whoever's available and ready, we've got to go play."

That will likely be Collins, who was signed as an insurance policy should this exact scenario should take place. Its not the first time the veteran quarterback has had to fill in for someone, doing so in Tennessee for Vince Young on a few occasions since 2008.

"I've been doing this for a long time and I know what it takes to get ready to play," said Collins of filling in for Manning. "Certainly in no way to I think that I can replace someone like Peyton, you know, and what he means to this franchise and the city.

"But at the same time, I have been doing this for a long time and I guarentee that I will bust my butt to get ready to play this week."

Head coach Jim Caldwell can confirm that so far, saying Monday that Collins has put in significant time learning the offense with coach Ron Turner in hopes of getting ready to start Sunday.

"He's been working overtime at it," said Caldwell of Colins. "That's what this week is for so we can really focus in on what he's going to have to do over the course of a game but he'll be fine.

"It's not as if we're dealing with someone that hasn't been in a lot of games. He's played, he understands concepts and systems and he'll be able to function very, very well."