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Elway: Manning driven to lead Denver to Super Bowl

The SportsXchange

He has a vested interest in being right, but John Elway shared a pretty strong opinion in the ongoing debate over the health of Broncos' quarterback Peyton Manning's right arm.

Elway, the Broncos' executive vice president of football operations, said Manning is on a mission to put Denver in the Super Bowl. At 36, Manning is two years younger than Elway was when he led the Broncos to a victory in Super Bowl XXXIII. Elway won Super Bowls at age 37 and 38.

"He's throwing the post route and everything well," Elway told USA Today. "I went back and looked at film from 2010 and 2009 to get a comparison of Peyton, and he looks to me to be the same guy throwing now that he was then. The ball is coming out quicker all the time the more and more time he gets with the offense and getting to know all his receivers and tight ends. ... That's always been his style. He's never been the Nolan Ryan of quarterbacks anyway. He's always thrown the ball with great anticipation and touch."

Manning played last Thursday at Chicago for the first time in 19 months. He missed the 2011 season to deal with a neck injury that required multiple surgeries. He'll get his first extended action since leaving Indianapolis involuntarily in March when the Broncos play the Seahawks on Saturday.

"Peyton loves the position," Elway said, responding to a question about Manning's 577-day layoff. "Every time I ask him, 'How are you doing?' He's thrilled to just be back out there."

The Broncos envision Manning being more than just "out there" this season. The offense won't be as lopsidedly imbalanced to the run as it was with Tim Tebow at the helm last season, but Elway and coach John Fox still want a run-first approach. That could mean multiple-tight end and multiple-running back offensive formations to help protect Manning from taking a direct hit in the pocket. Manning estimated this week on the Dan Patrick Show that he hasn't absorbed a violent football hit in nearly two years.

"Looking at the end run, winning the Super Bowl is our goal. Our owner, Pat Bowlen, wants to be competitive and win Super Bowls," said Elway. "We're a lot closer now than we were. I feel like with Peyton, as well as the supporting cast here, we can go out and compete for one, and that's all you can hope for."

Manning signed a five-year, $96 million contract in March. The contract includes protection for the team in the first two years of the deal in the event of recurrence of his neck injury, which required spinal fusion surgery to correct.

If Manning is hurt this season, the deal would likely cost Denver only $18 million for the 2012 league year.

If he hurts his neck next season -- the Broncos aren't protected from other injuries -- the cost is $38 million over two years.
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