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Peyton Manning's arm strength better now, David Cutcliffe says

Peyton Manning put together a season for the ages last year when he rebounded from four neck surgeries to throw for 4,659 yards and 37 touchdowns and win NFL Comeback Player of the Year.

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One of his former coaches, however, believes Manning is in a better position entering his second season with the Denver Broncos, which begins Thursday night against the Baltimore Ravens.

Duke coach David Cutcliffe, Manning's offensive coordinator at the University of Tennessee, worked with Manning and Broncos receivers Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker during the offseason, and Cutcliffe told me that he has no doubt that Manning's arm is stronger this year than it was at any point in 2012.

"He's better in arm strength than he was this time a year ago," Cutcliffe said. "No. Doubt. About. It."

But it's not just arm strength, Cutcliffe said. As Cutcliffe told me, Manning's in a position where he can make all of the throws, where last year coming off four neck surgeries, it certainly was not the case.

"Everything was literally a change for him," Cutcliffe said. "It was amazing to me that, not that he did what he did, but that he had the drive and the strength to push to get here. What people don't realize, he didn't just throw every day, this guy put himself through a bunch of pain. I ran him like I was running a freshman player in a conditioning standpoint. He was working on his core strength with our people in the weight room and training rom. Painful work."

"He has a new way of forming thing, he makes things fit him, to be real honest," Cutcliffe added. "He changes them more than they change him."

Cutcliffe also said that Welker -- working with Manning for the first time -- was surprised not just with the quarterback's arm strength but with how quickly he released the ball.

"(Manning) wanted to be at a different level to start camp," Cutcliffe said. "I don't think there's any question when they left, they were gonna start at a higher level with each other and they should.

Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter @RapSheet.

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