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Manning looks the same, but he and Elway know better

Associated Press Modified: September 13, 2012 at 7:34 pm •  Published: September 13, 2012

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Peyton Manning looked as though nothing had changed after sitting out last season because of a neck injury. Don't be fooled, though, says the Broncos quarterback — plenty is different.

And not just the horse on his helmet.

Manning insists he's still searching for a comfort zone in Denver and figures his transition after 14 seasons in Indianapolis will take all season. Same with his rehab from the nerve injury that caused weakness in his throwing arm and forced him to miss last season.

Broncos boss John Elway agrees, telling The Associated Press that Manning's arm strength is "probably not where he wants it to be. I don't know if it'll ever be where he wants it to be, but to me, it's plenty adequate right now."

Teammates, opponents, even his former coach, NBC analyst Tony Dungy, who was on hand to chronicle his Denver debut, agreed that Manning hadn't missed a beat.

Appearances can be deceiving, though. Just last week, Manning said, "I have some things that I deal with myself, but I kind of keep that between me and the trainer."

Manning's game, this new offense, his timing with his targets, even his health, are all works in progress, Elway told the AP in an interview Thursday.

"There's going to be adjustments week in and week out," Elway said. "He knew those guys in Indy, those receivers, he had them forever and so it will be a work in progress, to me, as long as Peyton's here, because he's going to change things and there's going to be new things all the time.

"And especially with his rehab and continuing to work because I don't know if he's where he wants to be. It doesn't sound like it is. But I'm not sure if he'll ever get to where he wants to be unless he wins two Super Bowls and he'll say, 'I'm where I want to be.'"

Elway is betting Manning gets to hoist that second Vince Lombardi trophy.

The quarterback's work ethic is "what gave us confidence that he was going to be able to come back and be as close to the Peyton he was of old," said Elway, who spoke to AP while promoting the Dove Men+Care "Journey to Comfort" campaign. "The question was: How fast? And he's made tremendous strides from the time we saw him in March until now. He's just kept getting better and better. Plus, he worked his tail off, and we saw it in training camp. He had a good training camp. The arm's getting stronger all the time, too."

Manning never has been known for throwing frozen ropes like Brett Favre.

"No, he's always been the cerebral guy, and it's the way he plays the game and takes advantage of everything on the cerebral side," Elway said. "And I think the mind never goes backward, unless it gets hit and knocked out or something like that. But that's why it's just a matter of physically if he could get caught back up.

"A lot of it's like riding a bike for him and plus putting in new, different things that he can do because he loves the mental side and the mental warfare that goes on with the game, as we saw last week when he stood there and stared at Troy Polamalu for 20 seconds down in the red zone. So, he loves the mental warfare that goes on and he'll just continue to get better with that."

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