Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Sports

March 20, 2012

Manning on board in Denver

New Broncos QB, 36, signs on for five years, $96M.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Win now.

That’s the mandate for Peyton Manning, who christened the next step of his football life on Tuesday by declaring the same old expectation of winning a Super Bowl.

“This isn’t something where I’m trying to build a foundation this year to really try to do something in two years. This is a now situation,” said Manning, introduced during a news conference as the new Denver Broncos quarterback. “We’re trying to win now.

“That’s why we all play the game. That’s the goal.”

Manning, who turns 36 on Saturday, is trying to make a glorious comeback after undergoing three neck surgeries over a 19-month span and missing the 2011 season.

He clearly senses the surreal nature of his new adventure. After 14 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, the NFL’s only four-time MVP was released March 7 and instantly became the most prominent free agent in league history.

He signed a five-year, $96 million deal with the Broncos, in part chosen over the Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers because the franchise is “a comfortable fit.”

Even so, something seemed odd as Manning posed with a new orange jersey bearing his familiar No. 18, flanked by Broncos owner Pat Bowlen and executive vice president John Elway, the Hall of Fame quarterback whose presence helped seal the deal.

“It’s very different,” Manning said. “This will take some time for me to get comfortable with. This is all new to me. You’re talking about a guy who was with one team for 14 years ... the only team I’ve ever known. I told John and coach (John) Fox that I’m going to need their help, to help me kind of get through this transition.”

Manning described the 10-day period, during which he contemplated where to continue his career, as “gut-wrenching.”

He began the quest with a visit to the Broncos on March 10, then visited with the Titans, 49ers, Arizona Cardinals and Miami Dolphins. He underwent workouts for the Broncos, Titans and 49ers.

Ultimately, Manning’s decision swung with the “gut feeling” he woke up with Monday.

“I was glad when it hit me,” he said. “Sorry it took so long.”

Manning still isn’t 100 percent, but is encouraged by the progress of his rehab and maintains that he could play if there were a game on Sunday. He is hopeful that he will line up with starters for the first Broncos minicamp in early May.

“There’s no question I have work to do,” Manning said. “I’m not where I want to be. I want to be where I was before I was injured. I know that I need the training staff and the weight staff here to get me where I need to be.”

Elway, a little more than a year into his executive role, doesn’t seem worried.

“I believe he has a lot of football left in him,” Elway said.

The connection between Manning and Elway is understandable. Elway, who played his entire career with the Broncos, won Super Bowls in his final two years at 37 and 38.

They undoubtedly agree on the Super Bowl standard, but Elway insists that it didn’t take an extraordinary sales job to convince Manning to choose Denver.

“Really, we didn’t try to sell him hard,” Elway said. “We wanted him to feel comfortable here, at a place where he’d want to come to work.”

Now that he’s on board, Manning can’t get to work soon enough.

A couple of hours after his news conference, Manning, still clutching his new orange jersey, was headed to the weight room for a workout.

“I’m glad this is all over with,” he said, “and I can get down to playing football.”

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