Ed Andrieski/Associated Press file photo
Ed Andrieski/Associated Press file photo
ENGLEWOOD – The Denver Broncos aren’t holding back when it comes to Peyton Manning.
Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy said Thursday he isn’t making any special allowances for the four-time MVP who’s returning from a nerve injury that caused weakness in his throwing arm, forced him to sit out last season and led to his release from the Indianapolis Colts.
McCoy said Manning is working on all of his throws – short, intermediate and deep – in offseason workouts as the Broncos ramp up toward training camp.
Manning’s workload is being watched by head athletic trainer Steve “Greek” Antonopulos, who is monitoring the quarterback’s rehab along with strength and conditioning coach Luke Richesson.
“Greek and (Manning) have sat down and determined how long he can go, how many throws he can make each week,” McCoy said. “But the mental challenge ... we’re throwing everything at him like every other player, and as we go his reps will increase.”
McCoy said there are no limitations on the types of throws Manning is making or the kinds of routes his receivers are running: “No, he’s fine. He can do everything.”
Reporters have been allowed to watch two of Manning’s practices so far.
He looked great in the first one last week, showing zip and accuracy on his passes, comfort under center, complete command of the offense and no ill effects from his nerve injury that led to a series of neck operations.
His second open workout wasn’t so sharp. He and receiver Eric Decker stayed late after Wednesday’s sloppy practice to iron out the wrinkles and work on their timing. Afterward, coach John Fox blamed the offense’s troubles on rust from the long Memorial Day break.
McCoy said days like that are inevitable, and that the offense rebounded nicely at Thursday’s practice, which was closed to the media.
“That’s going to be the give and take of any OTA practice, any training camp practice,” he said. “We’re installing a system with everybody. We’re not slowing down. We’ll just keep piling on the players, so there’s going to be some days, hey, the offense is going to make some mistakes, the defense is going to get the best of us. And then there’s days where it’s going to work the other way.
“The offense did a nice job (Thursday) of coming out and responding to the challenge.”
McCoy said the other quarterbacks – Caleb Hanie, Adam Weber and rookie Brock Osweiler – have benefited from watching Manning and his famous attention to detail, and he’s encouraging them to ask plenty of questions of the 11-time Pro Bowl player.
McCoy isn’t shy about picking Manning’s brain himself.
After all, McCoy is plucking plenty of plays out of the Colts’ playbook.
He and quarterbacks coach Adam Gase watched Indy’s 2010 game films during the Broncos’ pursuit of Manning, who signed a five-year, $96 million deal with Denver in mid-March after his release from the Colts.
They meshed the Colts’ concepts with the Broncos’ system, minus the read-option plays that went out once Manning signed and Tim Tebow was traded to the New York Jets.
Then, they sat down with Manning and sought his input.
“The first thing he said to us was, ‘Hey listen, you guys have a system in place. I want to learn your system but also have the flexibility to do a number of the things that we’ve done for the last 14 years in Indy,’” McCoy said.
“And hey, I’d be an idiot if I didn’t listen to him.”
The public perception is that McCoy’s job description has changed dramatically with the switch from the inexperienced Tebow to the polished perfectionist that is Manning.
“No. I’m still the offensive coordinator, and I’ve still got to do a job of preparing the football team every week with the rest of our staff,” McCoy said. “And let’s plan together and listen to the players and do what we do best.”
That means more passes and fewer handoffs or keepers.
Manning is known as a coach on the field, often changing plays at the line of scrimmage after deciphering the defense.
McCoy said he appreciates Manning’s famous attention to detail.
“This is the type of player you want to coach,” he said. “(I’m) very fortunate. These types of players don’t come around very often, so we’re going to all take advantage of it.”