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The four-time MVP had his third neck operation in less than two years today.

The team issued a statement Thursday afternoon saying:

“Peyton has undergone this surgery today by having a single level anterior fusion. The surgery was un-eventful.

“Therefore, there will be no estimation of a return date at this time. We will keep Peyton on the active roster until we have a clearer picture of his recovery process.

“Peyton will immediately begin the rehabilitation regimen mapped out by the surgeon. We anticipate no further updates or availabilities beyond those required by the NFL Media Policy for the immediate future.”

Manning’s longtime friend and battery mate, Colts C Jeff Saturday, addressed the team’s mood today on NFL Network.

“When they brought Kerry (Collins) in, we knew that things weren’t progressing at the rate they would have wanted,” he said.

“Obviously I want (Manning) to come back as soon as he’s healthy and as soon as possible. I’ve played with him my whole career, and he’s a heck of a quarterback, and he’s obviously a huge part of our team and helping lead us to a bunch of victories.

“But the reality is we have to hold down the fort while he’s not here. We’re going to hitch it up to Kerry and go play games and get as many wins as we can.”

Since being drafted No. 1 overall in 1998, Manning had never missed a start in his NFL career, spanning 227 consecutive appearances (including playoffs).

Prior to today’s operation, he also had a procedure on a bulging disc in his neck May 23 while the NFL lockout was still in place. He cited his inability to rehabilitate with the team’s medical staff during the lockout as a major reason for his halting recovery.

The Colts, who have only missed the playoffs once in the past 12 seasons, open their season Sunday in Houston with recently unretired Collins scheduled to be under center. He will be Indianapolis’ first starting quarterback not named Manning since current San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh started for the Colts in 1997.

“I think he’s OK, probably because there’s a little finality to this deal in terms of playing,” Peyton’s father, former New Orleans Saints QB Archie Manning, told ESPN. “He’s been on the clock since May. He didn’t make it. Obviously, it’s a big letdown, but he can relax a little bit compared to the intensity of everything he has done trying to rehab.”

Peyton Manning’s older brother, Cooper, had a similar procedure, though his football career ended in college due to spinal stenosis. He told ESPN: ”

“Everyone is different, but I’ve had a fusion and I’ve known players who have had fusions and went on to play football. … You can get a pretty good range of motion back and much more stability once it heals.”

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