Denver Broncos  

 

Expectations high as Peyton Manning, Broncos get acclimated

Eric Bakke/Associated Press
Peyton Manning has hit the ground running since being officially introduced as a Denver Bronco last Tuesday.

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Peyton Manning has been a Bronco for more than a week.

The hysteria has died down a bit. But internally, there's been no reason to temper expectations ratcheted up by the signing of No. 18.

Manning moved his rehab to Denver's facility immediately after signing, and has done all he can -- which is very limited at this point, due to the new offseason rules -- to get ready for the 2012 season, his first in the NFL in colors other than the Colts' blue and white.

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"It's great to have him there, and obviously he's full of knowledge," Broncos executive vice president John Elway told NFL Network. "But he's still going through his rehab process and working hard. With the new rules, we can only do so much, but he's working hard on rehabbing his arm. And he's been working out, throwing with the guys, and that's the kind of guy he is. He's got our playbook, so he's had his head in the playbook trying to learn, and kind of combine what he's used and what we do."

The Denver Post got pictures of Manning conducting an informal session with Broncos receiver Eric Decker, tight end Julius Thomas and center J.D. Walton on Monday.

By NFL rule, he won't be able to throw with his teammates in the more formal setting of the club's Englewood, Colo., facility until the beginning of May, when the second phase of the Broncos' offseason program commences. But as a former quarterback, Elway sees plenty of benefit in Manning throwing with his new receivers off-campus now, to get a jump on the process.

"He's gotta get used to those guys, and the receivers have to get used to Peyton," Elway said. "So there are a lot of things when it comes to the timing that they can get done on their own. Peyton's gonna head that up, and get those guys together. Because we can't do it at the complex, it makes it a little more difficult, but Peyton's all about getting with those guys now and getting to know them."

One edge Denver had over its competitors in the Manning sweepstakes was the $40 million in cap room it carried.

That allowed Elway, GM Brian Xanders and coach John Fox to pursue Manning and sell him on the idea that there'd be more help coming. And while Elway is quick to say that getting the quarterback in place didn't drastically change Denver's plans, there was certainly tweaking.

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"We're still trying to be the best football team that we can be," Elway said. "But any time you can get a guy like Peyton, with what he can be, you're trying to take advantage of his strengths, and it changes the focus a little bit. So we were able to get Joel Dreessen and Jacob Tamme in as free agents, so the tight end position got upgraded in a hurry. And we got Bubba Caldwell in from Cincinnati as a wide receiver. So we were able to do some things, and (having Manning) may have changed things a little bit."

One other thing that has changed in Denver: expectations.

Having won the AFC West and a playoff game is part of that for the Broncos. Having Manning takes it all to a whole different level.

For now, Elway's enjoying the wave of optimism that last week's huge news brought.

"It's been wonderful," Elway said. "Broncos fans out there are thrilled to have a guy like Peyton Manning. And especially with what the organization's been through the last three, four years, it's nice to be able to get competitive. The expectations of the Bronco fans has always been, once we went to the Super Bowls back in the late '90s, to get back and compete for a Super Bowl. The expectation is there now, and there's a lot of hope in Denver that we can compete with the elite in the AFC and get back there."

Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @AlbertBreer

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