NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The booming voice rose above the din at Prudential Center to interrupt the hullabaloo and proclaim, "That concludes the Denver Broncos' media day session." The five happiest people in the New Jersey Devils' arena were the team's starting offensive linemen.
They had dreaded this hour-long interview session not for its notorious nuttiness but because it meant more face time with the media than they'd spent all season speaking with reporters, at least on the record.
Carrying on the tradition of Denver's Super Bowl teams of the late 1990s that let Shannon Sharpe dish up the sound bites, these laconic linemen would rather be seen and not heard.
"Yeah, that's exactly what it is: let your pads do the talking," left tackle Chris Clark said. "It's not about the glitz and glam for us."
Yet, it was hard to ignore this group that allowed the fewest sacks in the league and eight times kept Peyton Manning from getting get touched at all — including both playoff games — while also boring the holes for fifth-year running back Knowshon Moreno's first 1,000-yard season.
Anchored by prized free agent acquisition Louis Vasquez, the massive right guard gave Manning ample space to step into all those throws to set NFL records with 55 TDs and 5,447 yards through the air.
All this despite losing star left tackle Ryan Clady to a season-ending foot injury in Week 2 after signing a $52 million contract. He underwent surgery and joined last year's starting center, Dan Koppen (knee) on I.R.
Clark replaced Clady, leaving just two members of Denver's O-line starting at the same position as last year: left guard Zane Beadles and right tackle Orlando Franklin. Manny Ramirez slid over from right guard to center, where he had never started an NFL game and had a spectacular season — his first as a full-time snapper since 2000, when he was in high school.
Vasquez was just the rock John Elway envisioned when he snatched him away from San Diego, and he's the only 2012 free agent in all of football to earn All-Pro honors this season.
"I thank God every day that we have him," offensive line coach Dave Magazu said.
So does Manning, whose 20 sacks were the fewest of any quarterback who started all of his team's games.
Yet, the line took some heat earlier this season when Manning missed some practices for the first time in his career because of a gimpy right ankle courtesy of a couple of hard hits by former Indianapolis teammate Robert Mathis that helped make for a very unhappy homecoming.