Manning everywhere, nowhere

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

INDIANAPOLIS -- On a night he'll be nowhere but near the bench, Peyton Manning is everywhere.

He's plastered all over Lucas Oil Stadium:

* In profile taking a snap on a huge picture in the Bud Light Zone;

* Hands on hips in a painting not far from the retractable window;

* Beside Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison, waiting to run out of the tunnel during introductions;

* On the backs of numerous fans wearing his jersey like the three sisters I saw side-by-side-by-side way up in section 645;

* In the very fabric of the World Champion banner hanging from the rafters.

But, with the Colts taking the field against the Buffalo Bills on national television in Indy's fourth preseason game, he'll be in a golf shirt and khakis on the wrong side of the thick, white sideline stripe. That was his uniform in warmups anyway, when he chatted with Tony Dungy and uncomfortably watched his teammates prepare to work.

As he recovers from an infection that forced left knee surgery, rumors swirl about the status of his recovery. He joined the team on campus at training camp, but never went out to the field to be with the team once, dedicating himself to rehabilitation and all the off-the-field work he could do.

A very small, very tight circle of people know the details of his recovery. And like most people close to NFL injuries, they aren't big on sharing. Conspiracy theorists have had a lot of time to go to work, as has backup Manning backup Jim Sorgi.

Tonight and Thursday's preseason finale amount to dress rehearsals in multiple ways. The game that matters is Sept. 7 when Chicago visits and the stadium makes its regular season debut in prime time.

And so we wait.

If Manning emerges this week, he's got plenty of time.

If he's on the practice field in even eight days, on Sept. 1, he could still get a full week of work to prepare for the Bears.

As those who observe this team on a daily basis have come to ask: "Would you rather have Manning with a week or Sorgi with a full preseason?" There is no hesitation in anyone's answer.
If you're a concerned Colts fan, no matter what you hear and what you believe, there is no sense worrying until preparations for the first game of the season are underway.

Until then, enjoy the building and the anticipation.

Eager as you may be to hit the play button, until you find out for sure Manning is off schedule, think of it as an extended preseason pause.