ENGLEWOOD, Colo—Peyton Manning is a Super Bowl champion, five-time NFL MVP, 14-time Pro Bowler, and seven-time first team All-Pro. You’d never know that if you watched him partake in the Broncos offseason mandatory mini-camp. New head coach Gary Kubiak has asked Manning to re-learn the game he’d supposedly mastered. Manning is having to reshape his game, and adapt to a new style of offensive football.
On Wednesday, Manning spoke with the Denver media for the first time in the mandatory mini-camp phase of offseason workouts. He discussed, in fairly remarkable detail, his feelings about adjusting his offense, giving up reps during practice, being an older quarterback and his thoughts on the development of the Broncos offense so far.
No player in the NFL will have to answer more questions this season than Peyton Manning. He’s built his Hall of Fame resume on a fast-paced, pass-first offense, built around three wide receiver sets and line of scrimmage adjustments. Kubiak, Manning’s new head coach, has built his resume around a run-first, zone blocking scheme. The challenge for Manning will be to get comfortable with a new hybrid offense. He discussed just how comfortable he is with this offense.
“I think it’s still a part of the process,” he said. “There are different phases. We’re kind of in the offseason phase here, and then training camp is important. The repetitions that you get hopefully shows some improvement from OTAs into training camp. Everybody has been working hard, but we’ve still got to improve the rest of this week. I think next week is important. I think training camp will be really important.”
This offseason, Kubiak’s changed more than just the offense. Each day during the mandatory mini-camp phase of practices, he has released veteran players about forty minutes early to lift weights. It’s a move so untraditional that it left Bronco vets stunned when it first happened on Tuesday. For his part, Manning says that the veteran players are still getting work in, even after they leave the practice field.
“I’m with 20 other guys in there,” he said. “We’re in there lifting weights and we’re working. Our strength staff—it’s not like we’re in there resting by any means. We’re in there actually doing more intense lifting than the guys that are doing the team work. We’re out there for individual [drills] and we’re doing walkthrough on blitzes, and so I still feel like we’re practicing. We’re just doing some alternate things. Like I said, I think there are some positives in it. That’s what we’re working towards.”
Considering his age, one would think Manning would be happy to get off his feet. The Broncos quarterback turned 39 in March, and he’s had to learn to adjust to what his body can and can’t do. However, Peyton says there are a number of benefits to being an aging quarterback.
“You always try to use your experience as a teacher,” he said. “I’ve always tried to learn something from every repetition and situation—defense, the best way to counter it. Hopefully you’ve got a pretty good storage file up there in your mind and in your memory that you can use to figure out kind of what works and kind of what you should do to adjust to different things. Different receivers—some receivers are faster than others so you’ve got to get the ball out quicker. So I think that you try to use your experience in any way to help you. When you’re dealing with some changes and adjustments, I think experience can help you that way as well.”
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During these OTAs, Manning has had to deal with more than just “some” changes and adjustments. He’s had to reshape his entire offensive mentality. He says he’s learning during this process and is doing everything he can to bring other teammates up to speed as well. However, Manning isn’t exactly willing to say whether he’s enjoying the new offense.
“We’re working right now and I think—to me—if I said I liked it or didn’t like it, it would be mean that I thought my opinion mattered, which it doesn’t,” he said. “It’s our job to execute the plays and to make it work. I’m learning and I’m learning about the requirements of me. I’m learning about how Owen Daniels runs his routes. [RB] C.J. [Anderson], obviously I’m getting more repetitions with him. C.J., if you talk to him, you think he’s been a 12-year veteran starter and he’s only started six games (laughing). I’m getting a ton of reps with him.
"The sky is the limit for him, I will say that,” Manning continued. “I’m glad to be in there working with him. [RBs] Montee [Ball] and Ronnie [Hillman] are having really good camps, I think. This is just part of the process, and we’re learning, I’m learning. I’m committed and I’m all in on trying to make any adjustments that I have to. At the same time, [I’m] trying to do some of the same things that I’ve done well. I’m going to hopefully try and keep doing those things well and improve on things that I need to improve on.”