Peyton

Peyton Manning has become a spectator this season.

Peyton Manning remembered the day eight years ago as his Colts team prepares to travel to Tampa Bay this Monday to take on the Buccaneers. Eight years ago, Manning had one of those unthinkable moments that has become so synonymous with his career. He led the Colts back from a 31-point fourth quarter deficit, as they scored 24 unanswered points to win in overtime.

I remember when the schedule came out for this season, Manning told ESPN's Rick Reilly in an interview posted on the Web site Thursday. It was natural for this game to be on Monday night. It's hard to believe that it's been eight years. It does hurt not to be playing, but especially going down there.

Manning had neck surgery on Sept. 8, and has yet to play this season. And so a return trip to Tampa Bay will not come with a rematch against the Buccaneers. Without him, the Colts are no longer the team anyone thinks capable of coming back from such a deficit anymore. They're an 0-3 team with a first-time starter playing quarterback this weekend.

And with backup Kerry Collins likely out with concussion-like symptoms, Jim Caldwell told reporters he's expecting Curtis Painter to make his first NFL start.

Manning has a new role this year, one that leaves him helpless to help the Colts on the field. He watches, coaches, cheerleads.

Just being there with the guys, Manning told Reilly what was the hardest part of his new role. The huddles. The conversations with (center) Jeff (Saturday) on the sidelines. At the line of scrimmage, he and I talk.

You just don't feel as much a part of it, a contributor, as you do when you're playing. I'm still trying to help in any way I can, but it's just not the same.

The Colts still have not ruled out Manning's potential return this season, but Manning himself sounded unsure of his immediate future - and even down the line - when speaking with Reilly.

I haven't thought about all that, he said.