Peyton Manning making bold – not necessarily risky – decision by throwing for Broncos

John Elway and the Denver Broncos' brass flew to Durham, N.C., on Friday, according to multiple reports, with expectations that they will watch Peyton Manning throw a football.

It'll be one Hall of Famer watching a future Hall of Famer, all eyes on arm strength and deep outs and anything else that would convince the Broncos that they need to continue their all-in pursuit of the four-time MVP free agent or instead turn and run back into the arms of Tim Tebow.

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For the first time in this process (as far as we know) someone other than Manning will be in control. Although, it's unlikely he's relinquishing much in a workout setting designed to make him shine.

All along this is about Manning feeling comfortable, Manning figuring out how a franchise will bend to his will, Manning taking his time and touring facilities like he was again that five-star recruit out of New Orleans' Isidore Newman High School.

Manning has called the Miami Dolphins and told them personally they were out, according to the NFL Network. That leaves three pursuers: Denver, the Arizona Cardinals and Tennessee Titans.

That the Broncos are the first club to watch Manning throw at Duke University, where David Cutcliffe, his old offensive coordinator at the University of Tennessee, is the head coach, then it make sense to say they are the favorite. Michael Lombardi of the NFL Network reported that the Titans will also get a workout, but no time is scheduled. There's always a risk that this never gets past Denver.

There is a risk here for Manning. He could throw terribly and scare off the Broncos. Denver's team doctors could find something in his recovering neck they don't like. Either development would derail this entire free agency and cause concern across the league.

So would Manning, famous for his calm, calculating demeanor, roll the dice on that if he didn't view the Broncos as a preferred landing spot? And, presuming he didn't work out for Tennessee during his visit to Nashville, would he give Denver the first crack if it wasn't the favorite?

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The biggest question since Manning was lost for his final season in Indianapolis has been whether he'd ever be able to throw the ball effectively again. First, the neck had to heal. Then the arm strength had to recover.

Where he goes is simply a secondary story, because if Manning isn't Manning then he'll have little to no impact.

The Colts decided early to bail on their one-time franchise player, preferring to brush off rich-trade possibilities for the No. 1 pick, clean house of its coaching staff and roster core, and bank on Stanford's Andrew Luck.

Perhaps today we find out how wise that decision was.

Manning is a stickler for preparation and a man obsessed with control. He isn't a risk taker. He doesn't fly blind. When the chance for preparation is available, he seizes it like almost no one else. Ever.

It's what elevated his natural ability to all-time great status, a relentless pursuit of perfection that extended far beyond the traditional film study. It includes the creation of an on-the-fly, audible rich playbook and even endless offseason workouts with even fourth or fifth receivers.

So don't expect this to be a risky tryout.

A fair presumption is that Manning is throwing Friday because he knows he can throw. He has the routine worked out. He has the receivers prepared. He has the both the strength and focus to deliver for the Broncos' brain trust.

Still, in a process that continues to lack for significant leaks of information, this is a bold turn.

For Denver this clearly signifies Manning's interest in them. Since leaving Colorado last weekend, he's toured Arizona and Tennessee, talked with Larry Fitzgerald Jr., met with the Dolphins and felt the frenzy of Titans fans hoping for their prodigal son to deliver salvation again to the state he starred in college.

Yet, he called the Broncos back and told them to scramble the jets for Carolina. Denver brought a host of evaluators and, significantly, their team doctors.

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Perhaps all that's left is for Manning to wow Elway, for Manning to clear the medical tests, for Manning to deliver a few of those cannon shot throws that made him famous.

Elway flew across the country expecting to see his next signal caller. Manning is hosting him expecting to leave him impressed and forward the process to a contract offer.

It's all set up now.

Maybe this isn't over. Maybe this is just step one in a two- or three-tryout process. Maybe the Titans and Cardinals are coming soon.

All we know is Manning wouldn't relinquish a measure of control over if this wasn't part of the master planner's master plan.

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