Rested and getting ready, Manning kicks off 2013
The arm: rested. The receiving corps: restocked.
Peyton Manning returned to Broncos headquarters Monday, starting
voluntary workouts with his group of receivers, which now includes
Wes Welker, formerly the top target for Tom Brady and the New
The 37-year-old quarterback was working with a few of his
teammates a week ago at Duke, where the quarterback’s former
college coach, David Cutcliffe, ran a mini-camp of sorts with
Manning, his brother, Eli, and an assortment of Broncos and Giants
After taking two months away from football – about a month more
than he’d hoped for – Manning, like any quarterback, was happy to
have given his arm a rest. But, he said, it’s hard to gauge the way
he feels this spring compared to last. He conceded he isn’t sure if
he’ll ever get back to where he was before the neck surgeries that
cost him the 2011 season.
”Whether that’s possible or not, I’m probably never going to
know the answer until I stop playing,” Manning said. ”I’m never
going to stop trying to get back to that point. I actually made
some improvements since last year but still have a plan with the
trainers, a plan with the strength coaches.”
As last year progressed, Manning declared himself fit enough for
NFL action – both with his words and his play on the field, where
he threw for 4,659 yards and 37 touchdowns, both the second-best
totals in his career.
His final game, in the playoffs against Baltimore, wasn’t one of
his best, however.
In 13-degree weather, Manning threw two interceptions, lost a
fumble and fell to 0-4 lifetime when starting games where the
temperature was 40 degrees or less. As the season progressed, he
admitted that the feeling in his throwing hand hadn’t fully
returned. He wore an orange-and-gray glove to try to help him with
But as much as he practiced with the glove, he acknowledged
there wasn’t much he could do to simulate a real-life situation in
the freezing cold. It hasn’t gone unnoticed that this season’s
Super Bowl will take place outdoors in New York. It also didn’t go
unnoticed that his first week of 2013 workouts in Denver were
greeted by temperatures in the 30s and a spring snowstorm bearing
Good practice for Manning, one of the most meticulously prepared
quarterbacks in the game. Figuring out the timing with receivers
under all conditions, good and bad, is a full-time job, not simply
one that starts and ends during ”football season.” He knows it
won’t be easy to replicate what Brady and Welker built over six
years in a matter of months.
”Every repetition with him will be important,” Manning said.
”Certainly, I think he provides some unique things. He’s got
unbelievable quickness, he’s excellent with the ball in his hands
on those screen passes. You’ve seen him getting upfield quickly and
I’ve always felt he’s had a nose for the end zone.”
Manning said he can tell Broncos Vice President John Elway is
trying to create an ”uncomfortable atmosphere” for a team that
went 13-3 last year but was dumped out of the playoffs by Baltimore
in the divisional round.
”Last year was good but it wasn’t great. And we’re looking for
a great season,” Manning said, nearly echoing the words of both
Elway and Broncos owner Pat Bowlen in the aftermath of the
In addition to Welker, Elway signed guard Louis Vasquez to shore
up the offensive line. He also went after cornerback Dominique
Rodgers-Cromartie, defensive lineman Terrance Knighton and
linebacker Stewart Bradley. All pieces of a puzzle, with designs on
helping this team – with an aging-but-talented core – take the
”You lose at the end of the season, you want to find ways to
get better, period, whatever it takes,” said cornerback Champ
Bailey, heading into his 15th season.
Denver lost defensive lineman Elvis Dumervil in a bizarre
deadline-fueled fax foul-up. Meanwhile, Welker’s addition means
it’s less likely that one of Manning’s favorite teammates, Brandon
Stokley, will return, though the quarterback wasn’t completely
giving up on that.
”I hope it’s not necessarily a closed-door discussion,”
Regardless, Manning’s receiving corps figures to be one of the
most dangerous in the league. Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas each
had breakout years last season, Thomas with 1,434 yards and Decker
with 1,064. Both are heading into their fourth year as pros. Both
figure to benefit from having Welker there to occupy defenses.
Manning needs to take advantage of the situation sooner rather than
later – a reality he’s very much in touch with as he enters his
16th NFL season.
”I’ll be long out of eligibility by the time these guys really
hit the peak of their careers because they’re both young players,”
Manning said. ”But I’ve really enjoyed working with them and
seeing them develop, and both of them got better last year. And
both can be even better this year, I believe.”