Tag Archives: Champ Bailey

Broncos melodrama: Does Del Rio know what he’s doing?

Tracy Porter, the Broncos’ starting right cornerback, departed Sunday’s loss to Houston slightly before the end of the first half. He did not return.

Neither did he disappear into the locker room to get urgently-needed medical attention. Every time my binoculars found him on the Broncos sideline, he was sitting on the bench or standing and watching the action.

Perhaps he was injured, as head coach John Fox said afterward. “Knee,” Fox said by way of explanation, and Porter was indeed limping as he walked off the field at the end of a 31-25 home loss, although he was still in his uniform pants and there was no evidence of ice or any other treatment during the intervening two hours or so.

Normally, there’s little doubt about injuries because we see them take place or the club announces them in the press box or both. Neither occurred in the case of Porter. The Broncos announced injuries to linebacker Nate Irving and running back Willis McGahee during the game, but made no mention of an injury to Porter, leading to the conclusion that he he’d been benched.

After all, he came out of the lineup after Texans quarterback Matt Schaub completed a pair of long touchdown bombs to receivers Porter was covering. Andre Johnson caught a 60-yard scoring pass in the middle of the first quarter to give the Texans their first lead at 7-5 and Kevin Walter caught a 52-yarder in the middle of the second to make it 21-5. These were the biggest plays of the afternoon.

“They challenged us, played a lot of man coverage,” Texans head coach and former Broncos quarterback and offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said afterward. “Jack got very aggressive in some of the things he did, so I tried to give us chances to make big plays, and we did.”

He was referring, of course, to Jack Del Rio, the Broncos’ first-year defensive coordinator, long known for aggressive defensive schemes.

“Andre makes a big play on the boot throwback early in the game,” Kubiak continued. “The throw that Matt made to Kevin for a touchdown was a tremendous play. But we knew we were going to have to make some big plays. It wasn’t a percentage-type throwing day because of the way they played us. But it was a big-play throwing day, so we were able to make those plays.”

Porter was the AFC defensive player of Week 1, largely for the pick six that sealed the Broncos’ opening night victory over the Steelers. Del Rio made it clear that night that he was not flipping the coverage to keep Champ Bailey on the opponent’s top receiver, which the Broncos did routinely before Del Rio’s arrival. For one week, anyway, it didn’t hurt them.

Sunday, it did. Once Porter went out, nickel back Chris Harris took his place as the second cornerback. Tony Carter moved up to nickel back.

At that point, Del Rio allowed Bailey to return to the old formula. He generally shadowed Johnson for the rest of the game, shutting him down without a catch until Schaub found him on a short out with just over two minutes left in the game.

So I asked Bailey afterward if, given a choice, he would cover the opponent’s top receiver all over the field, wherever he lines up.

“I really just do what my coaches game plan for the week,” said the 11-time Pro Bowl selection. “I think everybody in the world knows I always want the best guy. I’ve never been shy about saying it. It’s really their call. I can’t just go against them.”

So there’s the challenge for the Broncos’ defensive coaches. If Del Rio wants to play aggressive defenses that leave his corners on their own, perhaps he should take some advice from one of the best to play the position.

“As a corner, that’s one thing you just don’t want to do, is give up the deep one,” Bailey said. “They could throw a hundred comebacks or curls, but don’t give up the deep one. It’s tough out there on that island, I’m telling you, but it is what it is. We’ve got to learn from it and try to get better.”

On the bomb to Johnson, it looked as if Porter was expecting help over the top from safety Mike Adams. The touchdown throw to Walter looked like basic man-to-man coverage.

Adams offered no insight: “I got to go back to the film and see what happened,” he said. “I just saw the (still) pictures and that didn’t help me much.”

The last time a cast wanted to see the film as much as these Broncos, Francis Ford Coppola was making the original Godfather.

“You never really feel like somebody’s better than you,” Bailey said. “It’s just we’re killing ourselves because we know what they’re going to do but our eyes aren’t in the right place, and that makes you look bad. That’s how they make plays. I mean, their offense is set up off that run game and if you don’t stop the run effectively they can eat you up in the boots and play-action and stuff like that.”

That’s what happened on the first-quarter touchdown to Johnson.

“It was just a double move,” Johnson explained. “They had the perfect coverage. There wasn’t anybody on the other side of the field.”

The Broncos thought the rebuilt back end of their defense was good enough to play man coverage and let Del Rio play the run and go after the quarterback with everybody else. So far, it looks like they were wrong.

Schaub threw four touchdown passes against Del Rio’s defense. That’s a lot. The Broncos’ front seven was victimized by the zone blocking, cut blocking scheme other teams complained about for many years when the Broncos ran it under Mike Shanahan, Kubiak’s former boss.

“You try to practice and prepare for it as much as you can, but you can’t practice (cut-blocking),” Broncos rookie defensive lineman Derek Wolfe said. “You can’t practice the back cutting on you like that. So that was definitely something new for us. I thought we handled it well at times, but there were just some misfits here and there. We got out-schemed, I think.”

Schaub’s shortest touchdown flip was a three-yard swing pass to running back Arian Foster. Somehow, 330-pound defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson seemed to have coverage responsibility. I have no idea what scheme that is, but it may need further review.

Schaub also had a scoring strike to Owen Daniels. Covering tight ends has not been the Broncos’ forte through the season’s first three weeks.

And then there were the two big plays. Kubiak denied he was going after Porter.

“I wouldn’t say we target anybody,” he said. “We’re attacking scheme, attacking what they’re doing on the back end, whether it’s quarters, quarter-quarter-half, or man. But we knew that we would have to try to get the ball down the field because they had a lot of people committed to the run. We just came off a game where we played a team that played us in a bunch of two-deep and we had to play the game totally different. So we did what we had to do to win. Convinced them to make some big plays and they did.”

If this is the sort of defense that Del Rio intends to run — a high-risk, gambling unit that leaves corners on their own — he’d better make sure his best cover corner is covering the other team’s most dangerous weapon.

Yes, Schaub completed a key 12-yard pass for a first down to Johnson with Bailey on him at the end, but that’s still the matchup you want if you’re a Broncos fan.

On the other side of the ball, the Broncos were uninspired and uninspiring for most of the game. Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy seems determined to use the no-huddle as a change of pace, so the Broncos go long stretches huddling conventionally and looking thoroughly mediocre. Then they’ll break into the no-huddle and start moving the ball.

For most of the afternoon, Peyton Manning was clearly the second-best quarterback on the field. Through three quarters, he had completed 17 of 35 passes for 210 yards, no touchdowns and a pedestrian passer rating of 67.6. The one saving grace was he eliminated last week’s interceptions.

In the fourth quarter, against a Texans defense protecting a 20-point lead, he finally connected on a 38-yard touchdown to Brandon Stokley, his old Colts teammate, to cut the lead to 13.

“It was just a seam route,” Stokley said. “Peyton made a great throw right over the top of the guy. I thought we were able to get some stuff going after that. It kind of got our confidence going maybe and the defense started playing well and we were able to claw our way back into the thing.”

Fired up, the Denver defense delivered a rare three-and-out. Freed by the urgency of the no-huddle, the offense marched down the field with Manning leaning heavily on Stokley, the most familiar of his receivers. When his throw for Eric Decker was deflected into the waiting arms of tight end Joel Dreessen in the end zone, it seemed karmic compensation for Demaryius Thomas’ failure to get two feet down on a perfect touchdown throw five plays earlier.

Suddenly, the Broncos were down only six, just as they were a week earlier in Atlanta. Using their timeouts, they forced the Texans into a third-and-five with 2:49 on the clock. Johnson pushed Bailey off him at the line of scrimmage far enough to give him room to break to the outside. Schaub placed the ball perfectly, just beyond Bailey’s outstretched arm.

“We lined up in one formation and shifted to another,” Johnson said. “Champ was playing outside of me and I knew I had an out-breaking route. I started outside and pushed back up and broke out and Matt gave me a chance.

“I went to Matt earlier, before we got the ball, and said, ‘I’ve been playing (badly). Just give me a chance. Don’t give up on me.’ He came to me and said that I’ve been playing too much football to get down on myself. He gave me the opportunity and I was able to make a play.”

Johnson was referring, probably, to a couple of earlier near-misses — a bomb down the right sideline broken up by Bailey that Johnson appeared to catch momentarily with one hand, and another that he almost juggled into Adams’ arms. But it’s instructive that despite his early touchdown, he was frustrated enough at the end to apologize to Schaub before his third-down catch, just his second of the game.

“I was right there,” Bailey said. “It’s just two good players making a play. His quarterback put it right where I couldn’t get it, so I’ve got to give him a lot of credit. Once I started following him around, he didn’t have a catch. In crunch time, he made it happen, so you’ve got to give him a lot of credit for that.”

If an opposing receiver can beat Bailey, the Broncos will have to live with it. He’s the best they have and one of the best there’s ever been.

If, on the other hand, they lose because an opposing No. 1 receiver beats their No. 2 cornerback, as Johnson did in the first quarter, that’s like a pitcher getting beat on his second-best pitch. That’s a mistake.

The Broncos may well need to play the high-risk defense Del Rio called Sunday. They may still not be stout enough up front to shut down the ground game and pressure the quarterback with four down linemen and the occasional linebacker, as the Texans were able to do.

But one lesson of Sunday’s loss seems pretty obvious: If that’s how they’re going to play, they need to let Champ Bailey cover their opponent’s best receiver until somebody else proves he can do it better.


Should the Broncos consider moving Champ Bailey to safety?

With each passing year, the question comes up more often: At what point do the Broncos consider moving Champ Bailey, their incomparable defensive back, from corner to safety?

Rod Woodson was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a defensive back in 2009. The 10th overall pick of the 1987 draft out of Purdue, Woodson played 15 seasons in the NFL, the first 10 as a cornerback. He was named to seven Pro Bowls in that role.

In 1999, the year he turned 34, Woodson transitioned to safety, extending his career another five years. He was named to four more Pro Bowls in that role. After intercepting 47 passes in 10 seasons at cornerback, Woodson picked off 24 more in five seasons at safety.

Charles Woodson (no relation) is another elite defensive back. He was the fourth overall selection of the 1998 draft out of Michigan. After 14 seasons at cornerback, including eight Pro Bowls, the Packers moved him to safety in training camp this summer. Woodson is 35.

“They said, ‘Hey, you’re playing safety. Get back there,'”Woodson told the Chicago Tribune. “That’s what I did.”

Part of the reason is that Woodson has lost a step, which is more evident when he’s matched up in man coverage on the outside with the game’s elite pass receivers, many of them much younger than he is.

But the Packers, who struggled on defense last season, also want to give one of their best defenders more freedom to roam. This is a player with 54 career interceptions, including seven last season at age 34.

“I think something that’s been very evident for Charles, number one throughout his career, he’s been a playmaker, whether he’s played the corner or the inside position,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy told the Tribune.

“In our particular defense, we feel that he is a lot more valuable to us the closer he is to the ball because of the different positions he can play, the number of different things that we’re able to do with him. So that’s really part of the thinking of trying to get him closer to the ball and more involved because of his instincts. He plays the game a lot like a quarterback does from the defensive side.”

At least in training camp’s early days, Woodson says he’s enjoying the switch.

“It’s different from corner, where you’re usually worried about a particular receiver and how he can threaten you as a corner,” Charles Woodson said. “As a safety, you get to move around a little bit more and show different looks and not have that responsibility of just having one guy. It will be fun to play more safety. I’m getting a lot more of the calls as a safety. I’m used to being out at corner and seeing plays from that angle. To be able to play at safety and really, really, really understand the play even more, I think will play to my advantage.”

Bailey entered the league one year after Charles Woodson and, coincidentally, the same year Rod Woodson moved from corner to safety. He was the seventh overall pick of the 1999 draft out of Georgia. He turned 34 in June.

Bailey has played 13 seasons at cornerback for the Redskins and Broncos and been named to a record 11 Pro Bowls. He is arguably as good a cover corner as the league has ever seen.

He is not only the best player on the Broncos defense, he is also the smartest. Unfortunately, that means he gets few opportunities to add to his career total of 50 interceptions. Opposing quarterbacks generally choose to throw to receivers not being covered by Champ Bailey.

That’s one argument for eventually moving him to safety: He might see more balls there. And, for the first time in his nine years in Denver, the Broncos might have enough cover guys to be able to spare him. With newly-acquired veterans Tracy Porter and Drayton Florence to go with youngsters Chris Harris, Omar Bolden and Syd’Quan Thompson, they have reasonable depth at cornerback.

Of course, with veteran Mike Adams joining Rahim Moore, Quinton Carter and David Bruton, they are reasonably deep at safety, too, at least before the games — and injuries — begin.

So I mentioned to Bailey that we get the corner/safety question quite a bit on the radio show and asked if he’s thought much about it.

“This is my take on it,” he said. “Don’t move me until I can’t do it anymore, or it makes sense for our defense.

“There’s no reason for me to move if I’m still locking up on the No. 1 guy every week or I’m still making sure nobody’s making big plays on me. I don’t see any sense in me moving. It doesn’t make sense to me. So I’m going to keep playing corner until I can’t anymore.”

Bailey may have lost a step over the years, but he’s made up for it with knowledge and experience, reading receivers and anticipating where they’re going. One day it might be time for him to make the switch the two Woodsons made before him. But watching him take on young receiver Demaryius Thomas in training camp with the enthusiasm of a kid, it looks as though that time has not yet arrived.


Broncos summer school: Peyton Manning 101

Last summer, when we got our first chance to see the 2011 Broncos on a practice field following the NFL lockout, the quarterbacks were Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn, Tim Tebow and Adam Weber.

Monday, when we got our first chance to see the 2012 Broncos on a practice field, the quarterbacks were Peyton Manning, Caleb Hanie, Brock Osweiler and . . . Adam Weber.

If you conclude from this that Weber is the veteran of this year’s group, welcome back from your trip to Neptune. Hope it was fun.

Change is a constant in the NFL, but not like this. In sixteen months, John Elway has remade the Broncos in his image, and nowhere is it more obvious than at his old position. In a single offseason, the Broncos went from an early 20th century option offense to a thoroughly 21st century aerial attack.

“Now’s when you kind of form the identity of your football team,” Manning said following Monday’s workout, the only one of three days of organized team activities this week the inquiring minds were permitted to watch. “I’m looking forward to being part of that.”

The change in the offense was obvious to even the casual observer. Near the end of a one hour, 45-minute workout, Manning led the offense in the no-huddle, two-minute drill, reading the defense on the fly and hitting open receivers in the numbers or hands, most of them check-down routes.

“I’ve always believed that you develop your timing for the passing game in the offseason,” Manning said. “I don’t think you can just show up in September and expect to be on the same page. What a great opportunity for these receivers going against these corners. If you can’t get better going against some of these top cover corners, it’s just not meant to be. It’s a great challenge for everybody. Offseason workouts are a great time to make an impression on the coaches. This is where roster spots are made and the coaches are constantly evaluating. So there are a lot of benefits to this work.”

In the excitement over Elway’s overhaul of the offense, it’s easy to overlook the addition of veteran cornerbacks Tracy Porter and Drayton Florence to the roster. Along with holdover Champ Bailey, they give the Broncos a much-improved cover capacity that should test the team’s young receivers as the offense comes together this summer.

Two receivers begin with the advantage of having worked with Manning in Indianapolis — tight end Jacob Tamme, who caught one of his throws in the two-minute drill, and slot receiver Brandon Stokley, who, like Manning, will be 36 by the time training camp opens.

“Tamme and I had a talk today,” Manning said. “We were both excited about this practice, probably more excited than most other guys. It’s a new team for us, a new place. Stokley, this is his second stint here. But this is an exciting time. (Offensive Coordinator Mike) McCoy was great about, ‘Hey, we’re working hard, this is serious business, but it’s important to be excited out there, to be encouraged, enthusiastic and have fun.’

“I think we’ll do that all through OTAs and minicamp. I thought the tempo of practice was excellent. Guys were flying around, a fast-moving practice, upbeat—that’s the way I like to work. It was good to see that from everybody today.”

Manning was barking orders during the hurry-up offense just as he did for so many years with the Colts, motioning players into position.

“He’s not bashful, let’s just put it that way,” Stokley said with a smile.

“Guys that command the respect of their teammates can do that,” Tamme said. “He’s a guy you know is going to do everything he can to be his best every day. That’s what you want in a quarterback — a guy that leads, and he’s certainly one of the best.”

Manning’s former teammates seem more comfortable letting him do the talking, which is another example of the tone set by many team leaders in sports. For example, when I asked Stokley about the differences between the new Broncos offense and the old Colts offense, he politely demurred.

“No comment on that,” he said. “I mean, why would I tell you that? That’s just going to help the other teams out. Everybody will just have to wait and see.”

Manning was somewhat more expansive on this topic. The new Broncos offense, he said, is not simply a transplant of the old Colts offense.

“You’ve got different terminology and different players,” he said. “There’s no question it’s different. So the more repetition you get — I do feel on-the-field reps are the best type of reps. There’s classroom work, which is important, you have to study and take your notes, but there’s nothing quite like being out there on the field, executing the play, going against fast defensive players like Von (Miller) and Champ. That’s the best way to learn, in my opinion.”

Bailey, along with Elvis Dumervil, was one of the Broncos’ leading lobbyists while Manning was determining his destination as a free agent. Anxious to compete for a championship in the final years of his career, Bailey believes the new quarterback puts the Broncos on a different level.

“It feels good to know he’s going to be on my side,” the eleven-time Pro Bowl selection said. “What I saw today, he’s going to give us some good work. We might not see a quarterback like that all year. It’s going to be something that’s going to get us prepared for games.”

Manning continued to avoid talking specifically about his recovery from the multiple neck surgeries that kept him out of action all last year, but he acknowledged that missing a full season means he has some catching up to do.

“I certainly have different checkpoints,” he said. “I kind of like (getting) hit. There’s no question that this work will be significant for me, because going against air is one thing, but getting the snap — for me, there’s the physical challenge and the mental challenge of being able to execute these new plays, knowing where these new receivers are going to be and also seeing what you can do.

“There’s no question it’s a different mentality for me in these OTAs (than) it has been in other years because of all the changes. But I look forward to the challenge. I just can’t tell you how important these OTAs are. I think they’re important for everybody, but when you’re a new player on a new team coming off an injury, they take on added importance. I thought today was an excellent start and I look forward to the rest of the time we’re here.”

Manning continues to describe his recovery as a process. Watching him throw, it was hard to distinguish him from the player we saw for so many years with the Colts.

“This injury has been a new experience for me,” he said. “I’m following the orders of ‘Greek’ (Broncos trainer Steve Antonopulos) and (strength and conditioning Coach) Luke (Richesson), who have been excellent in my rehab and training. I’m taking their orders. I realize I still have work to do. But any time you can go out there and go through a practice, make a good throw or if you have a mistake you can learn from it, I think that’s progress. I still have work to do, like I’ve said all along, but I look forward to making that progress and putting the work in to make that progress.”

The organization is a little less cautious describing his progress.

“Dealing with the physical part, he’s getting better every day,” coach John Fox said. “It’s something we felt good about, our medical people felt good about. His progress has been outstanding. We’re excited about where he is.”

Elway was on the field for most of Monday’s workout, standing alongside Manning during one period when other quarterbacks were running the drills. Seldom has so much quarterbacking expertise occupied such a small space. In the space of his sixteen months in charge, Elway has changed the Broncos dramatically, and the direction and purpose of that change is personified by Manning.

“I think you guys got to see him today,” Tamme said. “Things are going well. I’m not going to speak for him, but it’s been fun. Offensively, I think we’ve got a chance to be good if we just keep working hard.”

“It’s different when you’ve got Peyton back there playing quarterback than most quarterbacks,” Stokley said. “Everything’s a little bit more precise, a little bit more uptempo. It’s just like I remember.”


Broncos’ Peyton Manning era begins

With considerable fanfare, the television networks will no doubt declare that the Peyton Manning era in Denver begins with the first game of the new season. Don’t believe it.

Owing to Manning’s famous devotion to preparation, the era of his influence over the Broncos began Monday with the start of the team’s offseason program.

In fact, it may have begun even earlier than that, when Manning essentially took up residence at Dove Valley following his signing as a free agent nearly a month ago. He’s been working out with center J.D. Walton, receiver Eric Decker and a few other teammates at area high schools since then. But because the entire team had not gathered until Monday, make the official start April 16. When the four-time NFL most valuable player began throwing Monday, every receiver on the roster was there.

“It was a good workout,” Manning reported afterward. “Great turnout, attendance-wise. Good to see a lot of the new guys that I haven’t had a chance to meet yet. A lot of guys have been here already, this whole time, working out early, which has been good. But some other guys got here for the first day and I thought it was a productive first day. It’s April 16th and we’re just sort of trying to build a foundation for what we hope our team will be like this year.”

Taking leadership of the offseason preparation is even more important for Manning than usual this year. For one thing, obviously, he’s with a new team, meaning there’s more work to be done getting familiar with one another than, say, going into his thirteenth season with the Colts.

For another, new restrictions on offseason work supervised by coaches were built into the new collective bargaining agreement at the insistence of the players’ association. Although Manning is not likely to pick a fight with the NFLPA, it seems safe to say he was not one of those arguing for less supervised offseason work.

“I do believe in the offseason program,” he said. “I always have. I’ve seen it work and I’ve seen guys get better. I do think with these new rules, the ability to develop a player, a young player, there is more of a challenge. I mean, the coaches (have) limited time to work with a young receiver or a young running back that might need that work. I do think that’s one area that the new rules are going to challenge that. So anytime you have a chance to be out there, you take advantage of the opportunity to work on a timing route with Joel Dreessen, with DT (Demaryius Thomas), to work on a handoff with Willis McGahee, because you’re just not allowed that much time as you’re used to.

“OTAs will be starting soon, training camp will be here and then you’ll be playing the first game. So there’s a lot to do in a short period of time and you’ve got to be organized. Some of it has to be player-organized, some of it the coaches can do and I think we’re going to do a good job of that.”

Manning emphasized repeatedly that results in the fall will depend upon the work done now.

“You are working on different timing with different guys, which I’ve always enjoyed that time, working on timing in the month of April and hoping this timing, we can put it to good use and it comes into play in October on a critical third-and-five, if you will. I’ve been throwing to Eric and some of the other guys that have been here already, but today was the first time throwing to a couple other guys and it was good to have that first day and hopefully we can just keep it going.”

One indication of the youth of the receiving corps Manning takes over was his reference to Decker as the veteran leader of the group. At 25, Decker is entering his third season.

“He’s a natural-born leader,” Decker said. “In the weight room, he’s the guy taking command of running from station to station. On the field, he’s doing drill work, getting us lined up and having us do things for a particular reason. There are no wasted movements, no wasted time, and that’s a great thing to have in a leader like him.”

It’s also an opportunity for Decker to put in rigorous offseason work with a quarterback for the first time in his career.

“This is something as a receiver you dream about, playing with a guy of this caliber who has been an All-Pro every year of his career and has won a Super Bowl and, at the same time, for me to finally have an offseason,” he said. “I was hurt coming into my rookie season. Last year was the lockout, and during college, I played baseball. So I never really got that time to get this technique to get this extra work in. I’m excited for the next six weeks.”

Still, youthful receivers like Decker and Thomas won’t be Manning’s only offseason targets. In addition to earlier acquisition Andre Caldwell and new tight ends Joel Dreessen and Jacob Tamme, the Broncos added one of Manning’s old friends and former teammates to the roster Monday, signing Brandon Stokley to a one-year deal.

Stokley, of course, helped sell Manning on Denver, hosting him at his Castle Rock home the weekend that Manning visited during his free agent tour.

“I just tried to make my sell the best I could and tell him the strong points about the organization and the fans and living here,” Stokley said. “Ultimately, it was going to be his decision so I don’t know how much I helped. I tried, but I knew in the end it was going to be his choice, so I’m just glad he did pick Denver.”

Like Manning, Stokley will be 36 by the time training camp opens in July. There aren’t many 36-year-old receivers in the NFL, but the veteran is eager for the competition.

“I take it as a challenge,” he said. “That’s what I’m really looking forward to, is the challenge of getting in shape and going out there and playing with these kids that are 22, 23, and being 36. Just working as hard as I can, using this for motivation and showing people that you know what, I might be 36, but I can still make plays. I know there’s probably a lot of doubters out there, but I look at it as a big challenge for me and I’m looking forward to it.”

Throughout the Broncos’ complex, Manning has brought an optimism, an energy and a determination to make the offseason program count.

“He’s an amazing leader, and his leadership alone is, bar none, the best in the league,” said veteran cornerback Champ Bailey. “You need a guy like that on your team, and where I want to go, what I want to do towards the end of my career is win a championship, and I feel like he gives us the best chance.

“It makes you feel good about coming to work every day because you know there’s a guy on the other side of the ball that’s going to give it 150 percent regardless. To have him there leading that offense, it’s an amazing feeling. I read about how much he’s been with the receivers, working routes and whatever they’ve been doing. You don’t see that from a lot of quarterbacks, and we need that here.”

About the only thing Manning declined to discuss Monday was his ongoing rehabilitation from multiple neck surgeries that forced him to miss all of last season.

“I’m not going to get into these weekly reports,” he said. “I’ve kind of been there and done that all fall last year. I’m continuing to work hard on my rehab. Certainly, part of my phase is my time with Greek (trainer Steve Antonopulos) in the training room. It’s been good to get into that consistent routine with (strength and conditioning coach) Luke (Richesson) and with Greek. That’s one thing that I hadn’t been doing up until the time I signed here. I was kind of traveling, going different places, not really having a home base to set up out of. So I’m working hard with Greek and with Luke and just trying to make progress. But I’m enjoying being under one roof, being supervised by those two guys.”

Working out with Manning over the past month, Decker has seen no medical issues.

“I’m not his doctor, so I don’t know how to speak on his health, but catching balls from him, it looks like there’s nothing wrong to me,” he said. “He’s throwing great balls; he’s getting the work in just like we’re getting the work in and knocking some rust off. I see no issues at this point.”

For Manning, preparing for the season is a process, and never more so than this year.

“I think there’s kind of steps along the way,” he said. “Today was an exciting day. Seeing a lot of the players, meeting some of these players for the first time and getting to know them, I think you can use this time to get to know these guys off the field a little bit as well. There’s some bonding that goes on in the offseason with offensive linemen and what-not. I’ve enjoyed being around J.D. Walton. I think quarterback-center’s got to have a great relationship, so he and I have spent time together and gotten snaps together as well at the high schools.”

The curtain will rise on the new, Manning-led Broncos at their season-opener in September, but Denver’s new quarterback made it clear that whatever they are able to do there will depend on the work they do now and in training camp.

“I think you have to have a great work ethic.” Manning said. “I do not think you can just show up in September and expect to complete passes or execute in the running game. I do believe the weight room work, the on-the-field work, call it old-school, old-fashioned, that’s what I’ve always believed in. And I have seen guys get better, like the way I’ve tried to get better every offseason. I’ve tried to be a better player each year than I was the year before. That’s from the film study of the previous year, but also from the offseason work, that timing with the receivers.

“What we’re trying to do right now is you try to take maybe one or two routes a day and really try to master those routes because this is going to come up in November on a critical third-and-six. This is what it might be — zone coverage, man coverage. It’s a lot to do in a short period of time, but I do believe it’s what you have to do.”