John Elway: Peyton Manning will play 'one or two series'

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- John Fox doesn't have an exact number of snaps for Peyton Manning tonight, as the new Denver Broncos quarterback slips on his game uniform for the first time.

But he does have a clear objective for him in Denver's preseason opener in Chicago.

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"Let him get comfortable with his system," Fox told "He reminded me Saturday, we had 40,000 people at this scrimmage, I asked him, 'How do you feel?' He goes, 'Weird.' I look back, last year was my first year in this place after being nine years in another place, and it is weird. So it's just him getting more comfortable. This is a pretty good situation for him, but it's still the first time. So getting him comfortable is probably the biggest thing."

Denver's plan is not to veer much from a normal preseason script, so last year's preseason opener can provide a window into the idea. Kyle Orton started the game at Cowboys Stadium, and led the first offense on a 13-play scoring drive on the team's first possession. And that was it.

If Manning leads a similarly lengthy first possession, that too will likely be it for him. On the flip side, if the first offense starts with a three-and-out, chances are he'll get another crack at it.

"It's gonna come down to how much our first offensive line plays," Elway said. "I asked him the other day, 'one or two series?' I think you get a feel for it during the game. If things go well right off the bat, have a nice scoring drive, then get him out. You wanna get something going to where they have a good drive. You don't want to have three three-and-outs. You wanna get some confidence, get some first downs, and maybe put some points on the board. If we do that, get him out, and go to the next week."

And while Elway did say the Broncos wouldn't use Manning behind any backup linemen, he emphasized that's not related to his neck or any other previous injury. It's just being smart.

"I'm not afraid about him getting hit. I'm really not," Elway said. "Everybody's worried about whether he can take a hit or not, he wouldn't be on that football field if he couldn't take a hit. If our doctors were worried, we wouldn't have done anything on him a long time ago. I wanna see him get out there, get the rust off, complete a couple balls, and see how everyone reacts underneath the pressure and how we can do some different things and getting him under the bullets to where some things we do at the line of scrimmage, if he wants to change some things around and how we react to it."

As for Manning himself, this will be the first time since he was a Tennessee Volunteer he'll be running some other than Tom Moore's offense. It's Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas now, rather than Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison.

All in all, that's quite a shakeup for someone who's enjoyed plenty of stability over a decade-and-a-half. And it explains why, to Manning, building a rapport is paramount in this setting.

"Hopefully we get some offensive rhythm going," he told "There are no coaches out there, the guys are on the sideline, and we got refs, clock's ticking. It'll be good with this group. I don't know how long we're gonna be out there. I've always thought there's a little more pressure in the preseason, because you know you've only got a certain amount of plays, you feel like you've gotta make something happen. You don't have four quarters."

For however long Manning and the first group are out there, it'll be a new look for everyone. Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and quarterbacks coach Adam Gase have pored over years of old Colts film, and after teaching Manning their offense, started to merge the quarterback's old system with theirs. McCoy calls it a "blend of everything."

So even after five months together, there will be plenty of moving parts in the short time Manning spends between the white lines at Soldier Field. But maybe what all these folks are most excited about is what fans are so curious to see -- the old quarterback in a new setting, another "Joe Montana with the Chiefs" moment for this generation.

"Just get him out there and play him with his teammates," Fox said. "He's got a bunch of different teammates. I'm sure he's excited for that too."

Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @AlbertBreer

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