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Peyton's place as starting Denver QB looks assured

The Denver QB came through his first full practise since career threatening neck surgery unscathed.

Peyton Manning throwing during indoor drills last week.
Peyton Manning throwing during indoor drills last week.
Image: David Zalubowski/AP/Press Association Images

PEYTON MANNINGS FIRST full practice in pads in 18 months drew rave reviews from his colleagues at the Denver Broncos — and at least one suggestion that his health is no longer even an issue.

Manning put on an aerial show with Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker and others Saturday morning in the latest milestone to his comeback from a nerve injury that cost him all of last season and led to his release from the Indianapolis Colts.

Manning didn’t address the media afterwards, but coach John Fox said he thought Manning’s performance was excellent.

“The guy comes to work every day whether it’s in that building or on that field, he attacks it like no other,” Fox said.

Although the defenders still weren’t allowed to hit the Broncos’ new $96 million man, Manning seemed to have an extra pep in his step in his first practice at Dove Valley that wasn’t in shells or shorts.

“It was great,” wide receiver Brandon Stokley said. “It was like the first day of school. Football without pads, it’s not football. So, when you put the pads on, you know you’re getting close to the season.”

Through three days of training camp it’s become obvious that Manning’s health isn’t much of an issue, although it could be some time before he takes his first hit, another big signpost on his comeback from four neck procedures.

“I said this when I was working out with him five months ago — he looks great,” Stokley said. “So, for us now, it’s kind of a non-issue of how Peyton’s feeling, how he’s doing. That’s kind of so three months ago. Now he’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with him.”

Stokley, who played with Manning in Indianapolis from 2003-06, said his old friend looks as good today as he did back then.

“He looks like he’s just gotten better and better,” Stokley said. “He looks normal.”

“He looked good when we first got him, to be honest with you,” offensive coordinator Mike McCoy concurred. “I knew some things he had told us before he got here, what he thought of where he was, and he’s gotten better every day. He’s worked extremely hard to get to the point he’s at right now.”

The next mile marker in Manning’s return will be when he takes his first big hit. Just when that will come is a mystery.

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