Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning looks to pass on Saturday. (Jack Dempsey / Associated…)
All signs are that Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is ready for full contact. Which he'll get Thursday night during the team's exhibition opener against the Chicago Bears.
During a scrimmage Saturday at training camp in Englewood, Colo., the future Hall of Famer, who was off limits to contact, had two quick three-and-out possessions before leading the Broncos' first-team offense to a score against the second-team defense.
On the final play of the scrimmage, Manning connected with receiver Eric Decker for a nine-yard touchdown that ignited a loud ovation from the 41,304 fans in attendance. Yes, more than 41,000 fans, or nearly twice the previous record number (20,782) that came two years ago to see Tim Tebow.
Manning, who didn't play last season while trying to recover from neck surgery for a nerve injury, wasn't too sharp during the scrimmage, as he had been during seven-on-seven drills when he hit Andre Caldwell on an 80-yard scoring play.
The one-time Super Bowl winner does appear to have full arm strength, though, and is ready to continue seeking improvement before playing the Bears.
“I know players were pumped; they were kind of feeding off the energy of the fans and everybody was into it," Manning said of the scrimmage. "It will be a good film to learn from on Monday once we study. I thought there were some good things, and some things we need to work on, obviously, but overall, it was a productive day, in my opinion.”
Manning was his usual self in the huddle. When the coaches couldn't relay a play to him after the headphones went down, his play-calling led to a touchdown.
“Instead of burning a timeout, [offensive coordinator Mike] McCoy told me, 'If the phones go down, just call something that you like,' " Manning said. It happened to be the scoring play to Decker.
“I thought Decker's back-shoulder touchdown catch was awesome,” Manning said. “It was excellent coverage by [Drayton] Florence, but Decker did a good job holding his eyes until the last minute. The back shoulder fade is a hard route to cover, and that's something he and I have been working on, so it was good to get that into play today.”
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