Manning 'amped up' for 25th playoff start

Manning 'amped up' for 25th playoff start
Posted at 6:09 AM, Jan 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-17 10:56:33-05

Broncos running back C.J. Anderson was sitting at his locker discussing how dialed in Peyton Manning is when he saw his quarterback headed for the trainer's room.

"Hey P.," Anderson bellowed, stopping his passer midstride to explain why he'd made a certain read at practice.

What followed was a minute of conversation in the vernacular of the NFL, a tongue of codes, colors, numbers, shop talk and football slang that's indecipherable to the rest of us.

When Anderson had his answer, Manning disappeared through the door for some treatment.

"Things like that," Anderson said, turning back to a few reporters asking how Manning has looked at practice this week as he embarks on what could be his farewell to professional football.

"Eighteen is a little more amped up, to be honest," Anderson had been saying. "It's just his energy and questions and situations and a lot of things that we weren't doing earlier or in previous years. He's just more amped up, just making sure we're more dialed in, more detailed on this and that, so it keeps you on your toes."

Manning, more so than usual, has been doling out tips, delivering tests, teammates say. Quick quizzes in the hallway, making sure no detail goes unnoticed as the Broncos (12-4) prepare for Sunday's showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers (11-6).

"Meetings, practice everywhere. He just keeps saying, 'Hey, did you see this? Hey, did you see that? Hey, this might happen, this might happen, make sure you see this,' " Anderson said.

The last time he saw Manning this focused, he said, was heading into their Super Bowl run two years ago.

"That was pretty much the last time I saw him," Anderson said, with his fist punching his palm, "really, really, this is what we're going to do, super detailed."

On the field, teammates say Manning looks terrific as he prepares for his first start in two months.

In one epic cameo in Week 17, Manning led Denver past San Diego to secure the AFC's top seed and earn him back his starting job from Brock Osweiler.

Although Manning completed just one of four passes of 15 yards, don't doubt his downfield prowess, tight end Virgil Green suggested.

"I think he's looked great," Green said. "He's been throwing the ball very accurately, putting a lot of oomph on the ball, throwing the ball deep, short, medium, getting us in great run situations. So, I think he's looked like the Hall of Fame Peyton he's always looked like."

His coach thinks so, too.

"Well, he's dialed in, I know that," Gary Kubiak said Friday. "But that's what I've seen all the time from him. So, his preparation's been excellent and it's not only been one week, it's been two good weeks. I think it's been good for him coming off of what he came off of to have a little bit extra time to play this game."

Manning isn't showing any effects from the torn plantar fascia in his left foot that sidelined him for the Broncos' last seven starts.

"I do think he looks very fresh, and not just fresh but focused," Green said. "He's real focused right now on not just doing his job but helping a lot of the young guys, helping the O-line, making sure we're all in the right spots."

There's a notion this game will feature plenty of check-downs and short passes because Manning will be making his first start in 64 days and Ben Roethlisberger is dealing with a sprained right shoulder.

Big Ben will be Big Ben, they say, even without leading receiver Antonio Brown (concussion) or leading rusher DeAngelo Williams (foot).

"When we play the Steelers, we know Big Ben is the engine that makes it go for real," cornerback Aqib Talib said. "So, he's playing. So, we're going to prepare the same way."

And Manning will be Manning, they say.

"I've seen him throw the ball deep, short, medium, it doesn't matter," Green said. "I think at the end of the day with what's on the line, Peyton's going to find a way to be the player that he needs to be for us to win this game."

NOTES: Osweiler practiced Friday for the first time since the regular-season finale. He was moving much better on his sprained right knee and Kubiak said he anticipates Osweiler being the No. 2 QB on Sunday.