Last year was the most difficult season that Peyton Manning has had in his brilliant NFL career. A severe neck injury caused him to have yet another surgery and forced him to miss the entire season. Manning watched from the sidelines as his Colts finished with the worst record in the NFL, not knowing what the future would hold for him. His neck injury looked to be career threatening but Manning decided he wanted to keep playing. All the surgeries, the rehab and the hard work has led to his recovery and Manning will make his triumphant return to an NFL field for the first time in the regular season after a year away from the game that he loves so much.
Manning will be wearing a different jersey for the first time in the regular season since he left the University of Tennessee in 1998. It won’t be an easy return for Manning though. The Broncos will open up their season against one of the most aggressive defenses in the NFL and a team that will be looking for revenge after losing to the Broncos in the playoffs a year ago. Manning doesn’t care though. After the difficulty of last season, 18 is just happy to be back on a NFL field once again and as an NFL fan it’s great to see the quarterback maestro back.
Peyton Manning joined KOA in Denver with Dave Logan to talk about the defense of Dick LeBeau, what he has learned by playing the Steelers four other times, how the team is progressing and whether he knows the kind of excitement he will feel running out of the tunnel on opening night.
On Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau:
“He’s an excellent coach, he’s been very consistent in his system throughout his time whether it be going back to when he was in Cincinnati or in Pittsburgh on a couple of different stints. He’s been very consistent in the type of defense that he has run and of course he has always had excellent players to make that defense tick. They’re always well coached, they’re always disciplined and you very rarely see guys running wide open because of a missed assignment. The guys understand the defense and play it well. That makes it extremely tough to move the ball against.”
What he has learned by playing the Steelers four other times:
“That sounds about right. You always know what you’re going to get when you’re playing against these guys. It’s hard to really use comparisons from years past to the times I’ve played them. It’s a new season, certainly I’m playing for a new team and they’re going to provide a new test.”
How the team has progressed this preseason:
“I think we have made some progress throughout the preseason. Certainly some things that we need to continue to improve on throughout the season. I think that’s one thing that’s always important, that you don’t peak right here at Opening Day. Hopefully you’re peaking and playing your best football toward the end of the season and it’s possibly taking you into the postseason but you do want to get off to a good start. Coach (John) Fox kind of broke the season down into quarters the other day. This is really the first game of the first quarter. We have four tough opponents in this first month and hopefully we can get started out on the right foot, especially playing at home.”
Whether he can predict how it is going to feel running back onto the field for a regular season game after missing all of last season:
“It’s really hard to answer that question and some people have asked me that. I could probably give you a better answer after the game on Sunday. Just right now being in a heavy preparation mode and there’s so much to prepare for when you’re playing against this opponent so really hard to say, but I know Opening Day has always been exciting for me to play in and for all players it’s the closest thing I think to a playoff atmosphere in the regular season and I would expect that same thing on Sunday night.”
On the excitement of playing Sunday Night Football:
“Yeah certainly. I think everybody is aware and you are kind of playing the primetime game that everybody is watching and other teams are watching. Certainly it’s one where you get a little more motivated for and it’s exciting. But of course just about every game is on TV somehow someway these days. Certainly playing at night, playing in primetime, playing at home, playing the Steelers, if you can’t get up for that one then something in wrong.”
Listen to Peyton Manning on KOA in Denver here (Audio begins 46:10 into the podcast)