ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Midway through Saturday's opening practice, Peyton Manning wandered onto the field with twins Marshall and Mosley in tow. It marked the first time since he retired that fans weren't screaming for Manning to shed his golf attire and ball cap for a helmet and shoulder pads.
The Broncos mercifully junked "The Decision" process at quarterback after going 14-18 over the past two seasons with Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch under center. In Case Keenum, the Broncos believe they have found "The Solution," a veteran known for his leadership and accuracy.
A year after the quarterback clown car careened into a ditch, everything felt different. From the moment Keenum ran out of the locker room at 9:18 a.m. in front of 3,417 fans there was no question who was leading the offense.
"It's definitely given us clarity for our football team. We're not guessing who the quarterback is going to be," coach Vance Joseph said. "It's Case."
For Keenum, Saturday represented a fresh start of endless possibilities. He was nervous, driven by a healthy eagerness, admitting, "When I showed up this morning and I see fans lined up before I get here, I'm like, 'OK, it's on now. This is the real deal. This is the Denver Broncos.'"
Keenum believes he was born for this role. It has taken years to come into focus. He was cut multiple times, told by Houston coach Bill O'Briean he would never be amount to anything, and even dismissed by the Minnesota Vikings, a team he led to a playoff victory last season. Those past failures continue to fuel Keenum's drive for future success. Saturday, he looked the part of a quarterback who was second to Drew Brees in completion percentage last season.
"It is," coach Vance Joseph said, "about ball placement."
Three passes stood out. Keenum connected with receiver Emmanuel Sanders on a 20-yard dart over the middle, followed by a 45-yard pass down the left sideline. A final pump-fake strike to running back Phillip Lindsay, who drew rave reviews from linebackers Von Miller and Brandon Marshall, for an over-the-shoulder score punctuated a successful curtain pull.
"It’s new. I am taking everything I have been through in my past and applying it now. I think everything I have been through, all the adversity, it’s made me who I am. I want to learn from these guys," Keenum said. "They have been to where I want to go and they have the hardware to prove it. I have been close enough to taste it and feel it and not get there. So, that’s what driving me. I am always learning and trying to be leader this team needs me to be."