With Manning down, Colts turn to "next man up" mantra

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - With quarterback Peyton Manning sidelined for the foreseeable future after undergoing neck surgery this week, his Indianapolis Colts team mates have adopted their traditional rallying cry of 'next man up'.

The Colts launch their National Football League season against the Houston Texans on Sunday when Kerry Collins, a 16-year league veteran, will be the starting quarterback in Manning's place.

"It makes no difference who is playing quarterback as far as we're concerned," Colts defensive coordinator Larry Coyer told reporters on Friday.

"We have a plan in place and we're going to continue to follow that plan. It's the 'next man up' and then go. I don't think our team has ever felt like we could go out and just let Peyton win it. We have to do our share."

Manning, a four-time most valuable player, is expected to be out for "awhile" after having his third neck surgery in 19 months. Some medical experts have even predicted that he could possibly miss the entire season.

"We try to get our team focused in on that as soon as we possibly can, and we began that process a little while back," said Caldwell.

"We have a mature bunch and we're fortunate to have a number of great veterans. These guys have been around the block a little bit, so there's a lot of experience and knowledge.


Offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said some changes would have to be made in Manning's absence but that he had been hugely impressed by the efforts already made by Collins.

"Kerry has come in and worked his tail off," Christensen said. "He has been burning the midnight oil, opening up the plays. I am shocked with how far he has come with it.

"He is a veteran guy. You can't throw up a concept that he hasn't done some place, some time, somewhere. He understands football, so he understands those concepts. It is more the communication of it."

Collins, signed by the Colts last month as an insurance play in case Manning was not ready to start the season, has never pretended to be a perfect fit for one of the greatest quarterbacks ever.

"But I know that I'm very comfortable with what we're doing, and it's going to be a lot of the same things, as far as what this offense asks of the quarterback."

(Writing by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)