Perhaps the questions regarding Peyton Manning's arm strength can be put to rest now after the quarterback threw in front of the media today at the Denver Broncos first OTA session of the offseason. It was reported that 58 reporters and photographers attended the practice at Dove Valley in suburban Denver. The reviews were all positive, saying that Manning's passes had zip and were accurate.
For the past few months the only information that Broncos fans and the Denver media had in regards to Manning's recovery from his neck fusion surgery in 2011 were sporadic reports from Broncos receivers catching passes from him in off-site workouts. The reviews from the receivers were glowing, but there was a certain amount of cynicism in response. It's not as if Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas would cast doubt on the ability of one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. Today's OTA in front of the media allowed everyone a chance to see for themselves if the Broncos receivers were being honest in their praise.
Remember, also, that these receivers were used to catching footballs from Tim Tebow who was not especially known for his accuracy. Having someone as accurate as Manning throwing them the ball would have been very different (in a very good way). Also, because of his youth and inexperience, Tebow never did any directing or correcting of his teammates in practice sessions. In contrast, Manning was completely in charge of today's throwing session, directing wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs and correcting them when they did something wrong. For all the stories of Manning's leadership and attention to detail, this was really the first time members of the Denver media were able to see it in person.
I hope that this public display today settles the question of Manning's recovery from his multiple neck surgeries in 2011. Many questioned whether Manning could (or should) play in 2012. Some of that dealt with whether or not Manning's arm would contain the strength and accuracy that it had during the 13 seasons that he dominated NFL passing statistics. Today put those doubts to rest for many although the true test won't come until the regular season starts.
The larger issue with Manning has always been his resiliency to contact in the future. Most certainly the Broncos won't allow him to get hit in practice from here until the first pre-season game in August. Although he was cleared by his doctors to play football again, many fans and analysts have been fretting that Manning's fused cervical bones won't hold when he gets hit. Then again, Manning could get hit and hurt that throwing shoulder. His knee could get hit and he could miss another year recovering from ACL surgery.
My point is that no one knows how Manning will respond when he gets hit. All we can do now is be grateful that he apparently is recovering nicely and his arm strength is very good and likely will continue to getting better. The fans can feel confident that the team, under Manning's leadership, will be vastly upgraded at quarterback in 2012 and everything is on track for the Broncos to return to their former glory.
Julie is a football fanatic who lives five minutes from the Denver Broncos practice facility. While she did not attend today's OTA, she is planning on being there for the first training camp practice open to the public in August.