New offense, new coach, same goal for Denver
The Associated Press
ENGLEWOOD — Peyton Manning can earn back every penny of the $4 million pay cut John Elway asked him to take this offseason.
All he has to do is win Super Bowl 50.
Manning’s restructured deal calls for him to earn $2 million bonuses each for winning the AFC championship and the NFL title.
To do that, he’s going to need plenty of help from a star-studded roster that enters training camp with major question marks, especially in the trenches.
Ryan Clady’s season-ending knee injury leaves right guard Louis Vasquez as the anchor of the league’s youngest and least-experienced offensive line, one that features rookie left tackle Ty Sambrailo.
Derek Wolfe’s four-game drug suspension leaves Denver’s defensive line without one of its starters against running backs Justin Forsett, Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson in September.
Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas skipped all of the offseason workouts in a contract stalemate that ended when he signed a five-year, $70 million deal last week.
Now, the trick is easing him back into things so he doesn’t get hurt, but also making sure Manning and Thomas quickly find their rhythm in this new offense.
Other things to keep an eye on when the Broncos open training camp on Friday:
OLD MAN: Manning is closing in on 40. Not that he likes hearing about it.
“You all keep using that word,” Manning countered playfully after practice one day this summer when asked repeatedly about being old, at least by NFL standards. “There’s got to be a synonym out there.”
Seasoned. Experienced. Savvy.
“Yeah, all of those,” Manning said. “I like those.”
At any rate, Manning said that with all the changes going on in Denver, he sure doesn’t feel as if he’s a venerable veteran. Learning a new offense and coaching staff while adjusting to new options and a retooled offensive line is keeping the five-time MVP young at heart, he said.
“I think everybody likes continuity and some consistency in what you’re doing. But I will say at age 36 when I got here and now 39 that I have been stimulated by the changes, which I do think keeps you engaged and energetic and focused in meetings,” Manning said.
BOWLING BALL: C.J. Anderson could be the best running back in Denver’s long line of good runners since Terrell Davis was Elway’s sidekick in the late 1990s.
The third-year pro burst onto the NFL scene last season, earning a Pro Bowl invitation after rushing for 849 yards and eight TDs despite not starting until Nov. 16.
Even bigger things are expected of him under new coach Gary Kubiak.
“I think C.J.’s got a bright future,” Davis said. “He’s definitely got some tools you can work with. One thing I really like about him is that dude’s hard to tackle, and that you can’t teach. You cannot teach bowling balls or pinballs.”
CATCH ME: When a state trooper found marijuana in his car just four days before the NFL draft, Shane Ray knew he hadn’t helped himself.
Or had he?
His misdemeanor citation cost him financially after he fell from a projected top-10 pick to No. 23, where the Broncos traded up to grab the SEC player of the year.
Ray, however, has found himself in an ideal situation: learning from Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware.
“It’s very helpful to me, especially as a rookie,” Ray said, “because I get to see from the eyes of two Pro Bowlers and how they view things, and now I can apply it to myself.”
STORMY SEASON: Owen Daniels has reunited with Kubiak, who’s been at his side for his entire NFL career, and he brings pedigree to a position where Manning lost Pro Bowler Julius Thomas in free agency.
In what he calls “a big bonus,” Daniels gets to watch the ferocious storms roll over the snowcapped Rocky Mountains, perfect for a weather geek such as himself.
Daniels majored in meteorology at Wisconsin and has made occasional appearances on TV talking about forecasts and football.
What he really wants to experience, though, is that rain of confetti.
“I’m just trying to win a championship — or help a team win a championship,” Daniels said. “So, to me this is the best place to be doing this.”
MENDING MIDDLE LINEBACKERS: One of Denver’s middle linebackers is dealing with a kneecap replacement and the other with hardware in his right foot.
Danny Trevathan guarantees he won’t reinjure the left kneecap that gave him so much trouble last season. How he can be so sure?
“I’ve got a new kneecap,” he said. “The old one is gone.”
On Jan. 6, he received a cadaver patellar.
Brandon Marshall had surgery on his right foot on March 11. He won’t have the two screws removed until after the season.
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It was a close game, but after some thrilling back-and-forth plays the Rifle Bears were able to pull off the 28-20 victory over The Academy on May 1.