Peyton Manning is forever etched in Indianapolis sporting lore. The former number one overall pick has built a Hall of Fame career over fourteen years as the leader of the Colts NFL franchise, including four NFL MVP awards and a victory in Super Bowl XLI.
As many of us know, a nerve injury in Peyton’s neck that resulted in four surgeries kept him from playing any of the 2011 season – ending a streak of 277 consecutive starts. It also ended his tenure as the face of the Colts’ franchise. The team crumbled without their field general, a season that resulted in a 2-14 overall record. Armed with the number one overall pick and opportunity to draft “the next big thing” at quarterback in Stanford’s Andrew Luck, the Indianapolis front office made quite possibly the hardest personal decision they had to. They cut Peyton and put all their eggs into the untested rookie Luck.
Peyton was courted by multiple teams but ended up signing a five-year, $96 million deal with the Denver Broncos, who have their own Hall-of-Fame quarterback in EVP John Elway. No one knows what to expect when Peyton takes that first hit August 9 at Chicago in the team’s first preseason game. Plenty of Denver fans (and players) may tense up if a defender gets a clean shot on their new leader. Peyton, though, is not worried.
Denver operated a very conservative, run-first offense last year with Tim Tebow at the helm. Now that Tebow has been shipped to New York and Denver has a Hall-of-Fame arm under center, the team is has mile high expectations for the 2012 season. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock weighed in on the new offensive look for the Broncos and had this to say, “If I get Peyton Manning and it’s a healthy Peyton Manning, I’m thinking Super Bowl.”
Peyton isn’t look back, setting his eyes on his new city, teammates, and the chance to compete for a Super Bowl in orange and blue. Losing last season put everything into full focus for the quarterback, who wants to take in every moment this season. “I have missed it, and I’ve never taken it for granted to be out there playing.”
The Denver Broncos open their 2012 year with a preseason game at Chicago August 9 and the regular season on NBC’s Sunday Night Football September 9 against Pittsburgh. And in case you’re wondering, Peyton won’t be facing his former team this year unless both franchises meet in the playoffs.