Peyton Manning says it’s going to take him a while to settle into his new digs in Denver after spending 14 years in Indianapolis.
He looked right at home in his new duds Thursday, though.
Manning’s passes on the first day of Broncos training camp were as powerful and precise as ever, delighting his coaches, teammates and the 4,371 boisterous fans who crammed into the team’s Dove Valley complex for their first glimpse of Manning in orange and blue.
The biggest crowd for a non-stadium practice in team history watched Manning’s first practice in front of fans in nearly two years.
“We had (Tim) Tebow last year and he brings out his own fan base,” Champ Bailey said. “Just to see more people out here on the first day than I’ve seen in the past, it’s great. I think everybody’s starting to expect some good things from us.”
The Broncos, without a winning season since 2006, welcome those high expectations.
“I mean, I’ve always been confident, but it does help when you have a four-time MVP as your quarterback,” Bailey said.
The crowd greeted Manning when he ran onto the field, just as they welcomed Tebow a year ago, with huge cheers and chants.
“I’m going to tell you guys a funny story,” defensive tackle and top draft pick Derek Wolfe said. “When we came out here today, I was right in front of Manning and I didn’t know it. They made a pretty big fuss, and I was like, ‘Why are they yelling so crazy for me?’ Then I looked behind me and it was Manning standing there.”
After starting his first 277 consecutive games, including the playoffs, Manning missed all of last year with a nerve injury that sapped strength from his throwing arm, required four neck operations, led to his teary departure from Indianapolis and spawned the biggest free agent frenzy in NFL history.
The Broncos prevailed, thanks largely to John Elway’s pitch and patience. After signing Manning to a five-year, $96 million deal, the Broncos jettisoned Tebow and the option-oriented offense for a traditional passing approach built around the league’s only four-time MVP.
All of the offseason practices were closed to the public, so some fans camped out overnight for the chance to see their new QB Thursday.
They were rewarded when Manning put on an absolute clinic during a crisp 2½-hour practice.
“I thought it was a good first day,” Manning said. “You can tell guys have been working. It’s hot out here. We had a real good tempo.”
Coach John Fox said Manning’s work will be regulated during training camp and into the season, but he likes where his arm strength is and won’t put any restrictions on the types of throws Manning makes.
“He didn’t take the last five weeks off by any stretch,” Fox said. “We’re happy with where he is.”