Manning returns to practice Thursday

ARNIE STAPLETON (AP Pro Football Writer)
The Associated Press
Manning returns to practice Thursday
Manning returns to practice Thursday

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) -- Fantasy football owners and Denver Broncos fans can rest easy: Peyton Manning is back.

Manning returned to practice Thursday after the Broncos held him out a day earlier because of a minor ankle injury he sustained in Denver's loss at Indianapolis last weekend.

It was his first skipped practice since joining the Broncos 19 months ago, the result of the pounding he took in his homecoming at Indianapolis last weekend along with the coaches' desire to give him a day's rest as the midpoint of the season approaches.

''Yeah, I thought he looked fine,'' coach John Fox said after Thursday's practice.

''He was good, he was his normal self,'' offensive coordinator Adam Gase concurred.

Joining Manning on the practice field, at least on a limited basis, was right tackle Orlando Franklin, who missed last week's game with a sprained left ankle.

With Franklin sidelined, Louis Vasquez made his first career start at right tackle, but he and fellow fill-in tackle Chris Clark were unable to hold the edge consistently against the likes of Robert Mathis. Manning was knocked down 10 times and sacked a season-high four times.

Manning had only been sacked twice in the previous five games with Clark filling in admirably for All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady, who went on season-ending IR with a foot injury in Week 2.

Chris Kuper filled in at right guard last week but he's missed practice all week with a sore ankle, so the Broncos (6-1) will likely juggle their O-line again Sunday when they host the Redskins (2-4).

One possibility is moving Vasquez back to right guard and inserting eighth-year pro Winston Justice at right tackle and helping him out with two tight-end sets.

Manning was one of eight starters who skipped Wednesday's workout, most of whom returned Thursday. Gase said he had ''very little concern'' about Manning missing practice and was pleased at how backup quarterback Brock Osweiler performed in his place.

Everyone was glad to see Manning back under center, however.

Wide receiver Eric Decker (toe), who also returned to practice Thursday, said the day of rest was a welcome break from the grind of the season.

''Being able to recharge and get ready for game week is huge,'' Decker said.

Notes: CB Champ Bailey (foot) sat out practice again Thursday. Fox, who usually says injured players are ''day-to-day,'' said Bailey is ''week-to-week'' after aggravating his sprained left foot Sunday night. He missed the first five games after getting hurt in the preseason.


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