During the Denver Broncos OTA's in Dove Valley, Colorado the past ten days, there is a much different feel than was present one year ago. In regards to quarterback Peyton Manning, his teammates see a world of difference. Another year removed from multiple neck surgeries, another year back in the saddle after missing all of 2011, it appears the Manning of old is new again.
'We worked out at Duke in March or April and I definitely felt like he had more zip on the ball,'' receiver Eric Decker said. ''I think he's come back stronger.'' Decker isn't the only one that sees a difference in the second year Broncos' field general, as head coach John Fox believes one year of experience in the Broncos system, along with feeling more confidence in the players around Manning is another reason for the increased velocity on his throws this spring: 'He appears to be way more comfortable...His arm appears to be a little stronger, more zip. That could be just understanding his receivers better and spitting the ball out quicker. So, I think just overall familiarity with what we're doing.''
Manning doesn't like to discuss the injury, or comparing himself during his Indianapolis days to his current situation in Denver. He is strictly focused on leading the Broncos to the Super Bowl championship that slipped through their fingers last January, the victims of the Baltimore Ravens' upset in the divisional round of the playoffs. Manning did discuss a few of the differences between this season's OTA sessions and last year's, his first in Denver: ''I think that I've made some progress definitely since last year at this time. I think also some since last season,'' he said. ''I think oftentimes when you know more about the receiver that you're throwing to, you have more repetitions with each guy, I think that usually allows for hopefully more accuracy and more confident throws, if you will.''
The Broncos are betting that the 37 year-old Manning, will be as close to full strength, and as fully recovered from the multiple neck procedures as possible. It's not as if Manning had a horrible season during his 2012 campaign, where he threw for over 4,600 yards through the air, and passed for 37 touchdowns. He finished just short of taking home his fifth Most Valuable Player award before eventual winner Adrian Peterson sealed the deal with his miraculous comeback from knee surgery, but also running for over 2,000 yards and finishing just shy of breaking Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing mark. Records and numbers don't matter to Manning, and he knows the window of opportunity is short in Denver to complete the mission. In 2013, it is Super Bowl win or bust.