Wide receiver Brandon Stokley was ready for a reunion, not retirement.
"I wasn't really ready to be done," Stokley told The Advertiser. "I still feel like I can play."
Stokley played in just two games for the New York Giants in 2011, before a strained thigh led to an injury settlement. Instead of helping the Giants win another ring, he spent his winter back home in Castle Rock, Colo., wondering if his NFL career was over.
Not long after former Indianapolis Colts teammate and fellow free agent Peyton Manning called John Elway and agreed to a five-year, $96 million deal, Stokley signed a one-year contract to return to Denver, where he played from 2007-09.
Stokley, who played with Manning from 2003-06, let the sports world know that the four-time NFL MVP looked strong and accurate after missing last season following a series of neck operations that led to his release by the Colts. After the two hooked up at a public park to play catch during Manning's free agency whirlwind tour in March, Stokley was the first to publicly give him rave reviews.
"I didn't ever think I'd have another chance to play with him," Stokley said. "I don't want to say you kind of take him for granted, but then you move on and you kind of realize what you had. And you kind of always hope that you get that chance again. So, for me, it's been great, I think he's the best ever to play the position. So, to have a chance to play with somebody like that is pretty special."
Stokley, who turns 36 next month -- same as Manning -- says he is healthy again.
"I feel great. I feel 100 percent. I don't have any ailments or nothing's bothering me. So, the body's feeling good and I feel good," he said.
Known as the "Slot Machine," Stokley is the only Broncos receiver who has played with Manning before. He says Manning's demeanor hasn't changed a bit, and he's freely dishing out advice to his young teammates, some of whom he'll be battling with for a roster spot and playing time.
"I've always looked at it like anything I can do to help out," Stokley said. "I believe in my ability and what I can do and if it's good enough, then I'll be on the team. If it's not, then I won't. But I don't think helping somebody else out is going to hurt me. I've never looked at it that way. I've always had older guys who have helped me out. So, whenever I get the chance I try to help out whoever asks."