Stokley stoked for reunion with Broncos, Manning

Associated Press Modified: May 3, 2012 at 3:47 pm •  Published: May 3, 2012
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Brandon Stokley was ready for a reunion, not retirement.

The 14th-year wide receiver rejoined the Denver Broncos — and old pal Peyton Manning — this offseason after missing almost all of 2011.

Stokley played in just two games for the New York Giants last year before a strained thigh led to an injury settlement. Instead of helping the Giants win another ring, he spent his winter back home in Castle Rock, Colo., wondering if his NFL career was over.

He kept in shape, and when Manning signed with Denver, the Broncos quickly brought back his sidekick slot receiver who played with the four-time MVP in Indianapolis from 2003-06.

Stokley, who played in Denver from 2007-09, said he's, well, stoked, to be back with the Broncos and Manning.

"I wasn't really ready to be done," Stokley said. "I still feel like I can play."

Stokley and Manning hooked up at a public park in Castle Rock to play some catch during the quarterback's free agency whirlwind tour in March.

It was Stokley who let the sports world know that Manning looked strong and accurate after missing last season following a series of neck operations that led to his release by the Colts. Manning had worked out privately for some teams, but Stokley was the first eyewitness to come forward and give the 36-year-old quarterback rave reviews.

At first, he was surprised by Manning's precise, powerful passes.

"I was. I hadn't talked to him about it. I didn't ask him how he was throwing or even if he was throwing. So, when I went up there, I just wanted to have a clear mind and just see for myself. So, I was really impressed that first day," Stokley said.

"And we ended up throwing for three straight days and he was the only quarterback there, so he was throwing a lot of balls and you never saw any drop-off. And when we threw a week or two later, he looked even better. That just showed me he is improving."

Stokley then made a tour of high school football fields around the Denver area with Manning and receiver Eric Decker to get back into shape and rediscover their rhythm.

Not long after Manning called John Elway and agreed to a five-year, $96 million deal, Stokley signed a one-year contract to return to the Broncos in what he views as the best of both worlds.

"No, I didn't ever think I'd have another chance to play with him," Stokley said. "I don't want to say you kind of take him for granted, but then you move on and you kind of realize what you had. And you kind of always hope that you get that chance again. So, for me, it's been great, I think he's the best ever to play the position. So, to have a chance to play with somebody like that is pretty special."