New Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning says he's joined the team to win now, not later.
By Jim Corbett, USA TODAY
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Denver Broncos Executive VP of football operations John Elway said Peyton Manning is throwing the ball as well as ever and thinks the four-time MVP's release has gotten even quicker. It might give the Broncos every chance to compete for the Super Bowl which Elway signed Manning to chase this season.
Elway said Manning, 36, is on a mission to win more rings. Returning the Broncos to the Super Bowl they last reached and won with Elway under center after the 1998 season would be all the sweeter considering the four neck surgeries Manning endured prior to his release from the Indianapolis Colts in March.
"Looking at the end run, winning the Super Bowl is our goal. Our owner, Pat Bowlen, wants to be competitive and win Super Bowls,'' Elway told USA TODAY Sports before Denver's Thursday practice. "We're a lot closer now than we were.
"I feel like with Peyton, as well as the supporting cast here, we can go out and compete for one, and that's all you can hope for.''
Manning is still the master of high-speed football chess with his pre-snap dissection of the defense. He may rely more than ever on his mental prowess and 14 years of experience this season.
But Elway still believes Manning is at the peak of his powers and represents and is the pocket-passing upgrade from last year's sensation, Tim Tebow, that gives the Broncos a chance to make a deep run.
"That's why he's back playing, he loves the game,'' Elway said. "He's proven everything else as a quarterback. Now for Peyton, at the end, the measuring stick goes to how many Super Bowls have you won as a quarterback?
"Hopefully, we can get him a couple of more."
There is no throw Manning can't make at this point now that he's nearly a year removed from spinal fusion surgery last September.
"He's throwing the post route and everything well,'' Elway said. "I went back and looked at film from 2010 and 2009 to get a comparison of Peyton, and he looks to me to be the same guy throwing now that he was then.
"The ball is coming out quicker all the time the more and more time he gets with the offense and getting to know all his receivers and tight ends. ... That's always been his style. He's never been the Nolan Ryan of quarterbacks anyway. He's always throwns the ball with great anticipation and touch."
Manning will see more extended preseason action Saturday night against the Seattle Seahawks after knocking off the rust and throwing his first game pass in 577 days in Denver's preseason opening win against the Chicago Bears.
"Peyton loves the position. When you say it's been that many days -- 577 -- it's probably (felt like) triple for him,'' Elway said. "Every time I ask him, 'How you doing?' He's thrilled to just be back out there.
"He realizes how much he really did miss the game, and he's just enjoying being back out here competing again.''
The way the Broncos hope to protect Manning is by making use of more multiple-back and multiple-tight end sets.
"We're going to continue to run the ball and not have everything in Peyton's lap, have balance and take some pressure off Peyton,'' Elway said.
And guess what? The Super Bowl next February is in New Orleans, Manning's hometown. What a way to possibly conclude one of the most remarkable quarterback comebacks ever.
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