Broncos’ Manning knows scrutiny getting started

The Denver Broncos broke camp Friday and Peyton Manning’s

excitement was muted.

The four-time MVP thought he’d be able to practice out of sight

now that seemingly every step – and throw – of his comeback has

been described, dissected and discussed over the last 3 1/2


No such luck.

The media are allowed to watch practice for two more weeks

before the regular season rules kick in, with all but the first few

minutes off-limits.

”So, the analysis of practices will continue, and I’ll look

forward to that,” Manning cracked.

How Manning’s well-chronicled comeback goes is one of the

biggest story lines in the NFL this season. That, along with how

the Saints confront their bounty suspensions and how Tim Tebow,

Manning’s predecessor in Denver, handles the Big Apple.

Manning became the most prized free agent in NFL history when

the Indianapolis Colts released him in March after nerve issue

weakened his throwing arm and required neck fusion surgery in

September, forcing him to miss all of last season.

After a cameo appearance at Chicago last week, Manning makes his

home debut Saturday night against the Seattle Seahawks at Sports

Authority Field, where more than 41,000 fans watched a scrimmage

two weeks ago.

Manning figures to play about three series.

He hasn’t lobbied coach John Fox or offensive coordinator Mike

McCoy for more playing time in the preseason because of his

recovery or rehab.

”It’s whatever Fox and Coach McCoy want to do,” Manning said.

”Those guys are watching practice every day, they’re watching the

film, they’re making evaluations as far as how much each guy needs

to play. So, I really leave that to them. When I’m in there, it’s

really important to try to do my job and get our offense down the


After the Bears game, Manning said he reflected on how far he’d

come to get back on the football field, but also on how far he has

to go with his new offense.

It’s hard to gauge the starters on a single series. Once the

regular season rolls around, it’s a four-quarter evaluation and

that opening drive is more about deciphering defenses, testing

targets, setting the tone.

In the preseason, there’s a pressure for immediate results,

especially when the starters only play one series.

Manning said that’s still going to be the case Saturday night

when the Broncos (No. 10 in the AP Pro32) host the Seahawks (No.


”Yeah, I don’t know if it’ll be a half. But it’s still not a

whole game, so I still think that it is a little bit more pressure

that you’re only in there for a certain amount of plays and you

want them all to go well,” Manning said. ”So, you still have that

feeling a little bit that you’re in there, you’ve got to have a

sense of urgency, you want to do your job well and hopefully we can

get a few more situations against Seattle and it’ll be a good test

going against their defense.”

Manning will get the bulk of his preseason preparation against

San Francisco next week, when he’ll play into the third


Manning didn’t come close to getting hit by Bears defenders

while facing a pass rush for the first time in 579 days. So, the

biggest question mark still hanging over him is whether he can take

a hit and bounce back up.

”It’s not hanging over me,” Manning retorted. ”It seems to be

a hot topic. I had a lady the other day who told me, `Everybody

can’t wait to see you get hit.’ Thank you. … I have played

football for a long time and when it happens, I plan on getting up

and hopefully completing a pass on the next play and moving the

chains and at some point hopefully you all can stop asking me that


Like his rehab, the scrutiny figures to last all season.

That’s why he was hoping to catch a break with the Broncos

breaking camp.

”I thought (the end) of training camp means that you all

weren’t allowed to come out to practice but I hear that continues

for two weeks, so I have kind of controlled excitement here,”

Manning told reporters.

The rules state that for the remainder of the preseason, teams

either open up their practices or their locker rooms.

”I would have chosen the locker room,” Manning said.

The problem is there’s 90 players crammed in there already, and

some days it seems there’s that many members of the media, too.

Notes: Rookie RB Ronnie Hillman returned Friday from a pulled

right hamstring that he’d aggravated earlier in the week, but Fox

said he would be game-time decision, same as CB Tracy Porter

(illness). Asked if he liked what he saw out of Hillman, a

speedster from San Diego State who will serve as a change-of-pace

back to bruising starter Willis McGahee, Fox said, ”I’ve liked

him. Every time he’s been out there, he’s flashed.”

Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton on Twitter:

Online: and