National Football League
Manning and Thomas back together after 201-day separation
National Football League

Manning and Thomas back together after 201-day separation

Published Jul. 31, 2015 12:37 p.m. ET

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Demaryius Thomas and Peyton Manning are a long ways from being on the same page. At least they're back on the same field.

The Denver Broncos kicked off Gary Kubiak's first training camp as head coach with their star passer and his top target together on the field for the first time in 201 days.

''He was swimming,'' Kubiak said of Thomas. ''He's got a long way to go to catch up mentally. But, boy, I'll be honest, I had no idea he was that big. Remember now, I haven't seen him. But he's a big, good-looking guy.''

Thomas participated in the first half hour of practice, then retreated to a side field to work on conditioning drills with a strength coach.


''When he's not working, I want him watching,'' Kubiak said. ''I don't want him over in the weight room.''

Thomas skipped the team's offseason program in a contract stalemate before signing a five-year, $70 million contract. His big payday came just 48 hours after he learned President Barack Obama had cut short his mother's federal drug-trafficking sentence.

''It's great having him back,'' Manning said. ''I'm happy for him. He certainly deserved it. It's been a pretty emotional month for him with all the things going on in his life. But, great to have him back.''

Manning said he and Thomas pored over the playbook in his hotel room on the eve of camp. Although the team sent him the playbook and video clips during his absence, Thomas said, ''I learn faster when I'm here on the field. Just looking at it doesn't really do much.''

Thomas said he expects to be up to speed in no time and Manning agreed, saying, ''Demaryius has always been a cerebral player and he's been in a couple of different systems in his short career already. So, he knows how to adjust. I think he'll be caught up to speed pretty quickly.''

Although the pair have to quickly find their rhythm together, Thomas will be worked in slowly because Kubiak is hoping to prevent him from pulling a muscle like defensive lineman Malik Jackson (calf) did halfway through Friday's practice.

''Of course, I wanted to be out there with my teammates and performing and seeing where I'm at, but I'm going to listen to them and take it slow because I don't want to get hurt. I haven't done this in a while,'' Thomas said. ''Competing against Chris (Harris Jr.) and Aqib (Talib) is not easy.''

Neither is adapting to a new offense.

Kubiak prefers a run-oriented approach that relies on two tight ends rather than the multiple receiver sets favored by former coach John Fox.

''It's totally different,'' Thomas said. ''But it's what we have to deal with and we'll make it work.''

Thomas said his goal is to break the NFL's single-season receiving record of 1,964 yards even though the Broncos are dialing down their passing game.

That won't be easy in this offense, but ''bottom line is I like the idea that he's thinking that way,'' general manager John Elway said.

Although Kubiak insists he'll retain some hallmarks of Manning's old offense, the five-time MVP will be under center instead of the shotgun a lot more now, and he's been practicing rollouts on a regular basis.

Manning noted he's done his fair share of rollouts, particularly in the red zone, over the years. He learned, after all, from one of the best - his father, Archie.

''I actually think I throw pretty well on the run for a guy that doesn't really run well,'' Manning said.


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