Manning determined to make Broncos the right decision
By Christopher ShieldsThe Niswonger Golf Classic brought plenty of celebrities to the links at the Ridges in Jonesborough on June 25, but the most popular was Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.
Manning returned for his third time to the charity golf tournament and spoke candidly on several issues ranging from the importance of helping children to his future in the NFL.
“It truly is a special day when you can raise money for a great cause,” Manning said. “I am proud to be a part of this.”
Manning was a Heisman runner-up at Tennessee before being drafted No. 1 by the Indianapolis Colts in 1998, spending 14 seasons with the franchise where he won a NFL record four MVPs and a Super Bowl in 2006.
A neck injury nearly ended Manning’s career, causing him to miss all of the 2011 season. But he headlined the free agent class after being released by the Colts this past season.
Despite all the suitors, Manning landed in Denver, displacing the immensely popular Tim Tebow and joining top team executive and former Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway.
Having signed with Denver in March, Manning has spent the better part of his time continuing his rehab from neck surgery, working with his new teammates and familiarizing himself with his new environment.
“It has been busy,” Manning said. “We are on a little break right now. I have really been there [Denver] since I signed in March. There really hasn’t been much time to breathe, a lot of changes, there’s a lot to do and a lot to work on. We start back with training camp on July 25.”
After missing an entire season last year, which snapped the longest-games-started streak among active players, Manning is excited to be back under center.
“I’m looking forward to training camp and preseason games,” Manning said. “It’s a process anytime you have a major change, new plays and new players, everyone keeps asking if I am settled in yet, but it takes time.”
Speaking on his health, Manning was optimistic, but believes there is work still to be done.
“I feel better,” he said. “I still have work to do, but I really like our trainer up in Denver. He has been doing this for 37 years so I am following his lead, his orders.”
Manning said the free agency process was new to him, having spent his entire NFL career with one franchise. But the choice to sign with the Broncos over others was much like his decision to choose a college.
“Obviously I really liked a lot of things about a lot of teams,” Manning said. “But my philosophy is kind of like when I chose to come to (the University of) Tennessee for college, you make the decision the right decision after you make it by working hard and being the best player you can. That’s all I am trying to do right now.”
Asked about how closely he follows the UT football program and other UT athletics, Manning said he still follows the program closely and had recently spoken with football coach Derek Dooley and basketball coach Cuonzo Martin.
“I am pulling hard for them,” Manning said. “Tyler Bray [UT starting quarterback] is coming down to our quarterback camp in July and I am looking forward to seeing him. The SEC is a tough conference, but I really hope they have a good year.”
Through all the changes Manning has experienced over the past year, familiar faces have made the process easier. Two of his favorite targets in Indianapolis will be joining the quarterback in Denver, having recently signed with the team.
“Denver worked out Brandon Stokley and Jacob Tamme and signed them and it’s great to have them there,” Manning said. “Anytime you make a change you look for some things that give you some comfort, some familiarity.
“Stokley and Tamme both certainly help my comfort level and they are great guys and great teammates and I am glad they are there, but I am also looking forward to getting to know my new teammates.”