Giardi in Denver: 'Very different' year for Manning


Giardi in Denver: 'Very different' year for Manning

DENVER -- Peyton Manning shuffled to the podium Wednesday at the Broncos posh practice facility in Englewood, Colorado, with an orange and blue visor. He looked like the guy you’ve seen all these many years, save for a few less strands of hair.

But there was something missing this time: that air of cockiness that Manning has always had, although not always delivered on, at least this time of year.

See, the Manning before us knows what we know: that the countless surgeries on his neck have sapped him of that golden right arm that has recorded more passing yards than any quarterback in NFL history. And you could hear that when the Broncos quarterback was asked if he could have ever envisioned this scenario, playing in the AFC Championship, during that stretch when he was rehabbing from his foot injury and watching Brock Osweiler go 5-2 in his place.

“I really tried to kind of take it one week at a time, stay in the moment and try not to get too far ahead,“ he said. “Try not to assume anything, any type of finality or any type of, 'Hey, this is what’s going to happen in three weeks or four weeks.’ I’ve truly kind of followed the old cliche, 'one week at a time’ and tried to stay patient, and I think that’s served me well, because there’s no question a lot has happened this season that’s been very different for me than any other season I’ve played in 18 years.”

Manning was a spectator when the Broncos ended the Patriots' shot at an undefeated season back in week 12, joking that he watched the game with another injured veteran— DeMarcus Ware—in the equipment room, noting that Ware is “a big time second-guesser” and “the hot dogs aren’t bad,” but “I’d much prefer to be on the playing field.”

There was no guarantee that would happen, and, in many ways, the Broncos are between a rock and a hard place, turning to the surefire Hall of Famer even if he can’t run the offense that head coach Gary Kubiak favors. Yes, Manning guided the Broncos to a Divisional Round playoff win over the Steelers last weekend, but he did so without throwing a touchdown pass. In fact, Brady has thrown more TDs in Denver this year (3) than Manning himself (1).

At 39, Manning has become a secondary piece, rather than the focal point he was for every season prior. A game manager, dare I say? But not in the mold of KC’s Alex Smith. Rather, this is a player that makes Kubiak cringe somewhere in that stoic body, realizing that every throw is now an adventure.

“You have to understand situations,” Kubiak told me. “You have to, hopefully, get your guys in the best possible situations on game day to be successful. I think that comes with playing the position. There are certain games that get to a certain point where managing the football game the right way is the key to win.”

Manning’s brain is now his best weapon, but that arm will fail him again. And Manning knows it. He's just hopeful that he can summon enough in the big moments to get the Broncos to the Super Bowl.

“At some point in the critical drive in the fourth quarter or on a goal line stand, somebody on defense, on offense or on special teams has stepped up and made a play. That’s kind of what has gotten us to this point and that is what you have to have, certainly in the postseason, and for any chance for us to have to play against these guys.”


Gronkowski advises Hayward to treat rehab like anything else -- dominate

Gronkowski advises Hayward to treat rehab like anything else -- dominate

FOXBORO -- Rob Gronkowski's never suffered a break like the one Gordon Hayward did on Tuesday night, but he has been through enough to know what lies ahead as the Celtics forward stares at a lengthy recovery period.

"I saw it. I mean, I wish him nothing but wellness," Gronkowski said on Wednesday. "Hopefully he heals ASAP. You never want to see that with a player in any sport. When my friend showed me that last night, you get that feeling in your body, like, your heart drops. I wish him well.

"I can't wait to see him back. I know he's going to bounce back. Being here in Boston, he's going to be a hard worker it feels like. I can't wait to see him back."


Multiple back surgeries, a plate in his arm, a surgically-repaired ACL . . . Gronkowski has put in his share of rehabilitation work. Asked if he'd give Hayward any advice as he embarks on his road back to normalcy, Gronkowski's message was simple.

"Just go into rehab just like you go into anything else. Dominate it," Gronkowski said. "Come back when you feel ready. Come back when you're 100 percent . . . He wouldn't be where he is now if he wasn't a hard worker. I don't know the guy. Never met him. But it's not something you want to see as an athlete happen to anyone else."

Gronkowski acknowledged that in his experience, one of the biggest hurdles following an injury like that is the mental one. You quickly go from being a powerful athlete to a patient in need of help with even the smallest of tasks. 

"There is a big mental challenge, definitely, with that," Gronkowski explained. "It's not just not being able to be with your teammates and all that. It's outside of football, too. Because it takes away your whole life, going out like that . . . You can't do anything. You can't walk. You gotta have people do [things for you]. You get really frustrated. You just want the people around you to help you out and keep you in the best mindset throughout the whole process."


Patriots-Falcons practice report: Gilmore, Rowe absent; Hogan added


Patriots-Falcons practice report: Gilmore, Rowe absent; Hogan added

FOXBORO -- Chris Hogan only had one catch for 19 yards against the Jets. He very nearly had a second grab in the second quarter, but Tom Brady's throw was off the mark, and Hogan's ribs were exposed for rookie safety Marcus Maye to hammer. The pass fell incomplete and Hogan crumpled to the turf. 

He didn't leave the game, but Hogan did end up on Wednesday's injury report as a limited participant in practice due to a ribs injury. He was one of three players added to this week's injury report. Linebacker Elandon Roberts has an ankle injury and did not participate in Wednesday's workout. Guard Shaq Mason has a shoulder issue and was limited. 

Eric Rowe and Stephon Gilmore, neither of whom were spotted at the start of the session, did not participate.

Here's Wednesday's full practice participation/injury report for Sunday's Patriots-Falcons game:


CB Stephon Gilmore (concussion/ankle)
LB Harvey Langi (back)
LB Elandon Roberts (ankle)
CB Eric Rowe (groin)

RB Rex Burkhead (ribs)
WR Chris Hogan (ribs)
G Shaq Mason (shoulder)


K Matt Bryant (back)

OLB Vic Beasley Jr. (hamstring)
LB Jermaine Grace (hamstring)
LB Deion Jones (quadricep)
DE Takk McKinley (shoulder)
LB Duke Riley (knee)
WR Mohamed Sanu (hamstring)
DL Courtney Upshaw (ankle/knee)