For a guy who makes his living as a jock, Peyton Manning sure has become accustomed to wearing a suit and tie.
The Broncos quarterback was the keynote speaker Wednesday morning at the Boy Scouts of America breakfast at the Pepsi Center. After his 13-minute speech during which he mixed in humorous anecdotes with a life’s message about becoming a charitable game-changer, Manning was off to Stillwater, Okla., for another speaking engagement Wednesday night at Oklahoma State University.
He is scheduled to be back in Denver for the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame dinner Thursday night when his good friend and former University of Tennessee quarterback mate, Todd Helton, will be inducted as tribute to his baseball career with the Rockies.
Manning, as a national sports celebrity, is used to getting pulled by organizations across the country. The banquet tour has been especially busy this offseason, though, after he won his NFL-record fifth MVP award in 2013 and helped the Broncos reach their seventh Super Bowl.
Only Manning wasn’t asked about his MVP accomplishment as he met a large local media throng before his Boy Scout speech. For all his public speaking, this was the first time Manning addressed the media since his postgame Super Bowl XLVIII news conference on the evening of Feb. 2 at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
Given 2½ months to mask his emotional beating, Manning was less agitated while discussing the Broncos’ brutal 43-8 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, and no less determined to make amends.
“You have to move forward,” Manning said. “You have to kind of re-establish your identity of the 2014 team. The 2013 team — it was a good season in a lot of ways. There is no question it did not end the way we wanted it to, but we have to find a way to build off that and take a step further. Try to finish.
“There is no question you have to kind of start over again and re-establish the chemistry on this team with all these new players. I think that’s important, and that really starts on Monday.”
The offseason is all but finished. The Broncos will begin their offseason conditioning program Monday at their Dove Valley practice facility. It is time for Manning and his new set of teammates to settle down and become acquainted.
The most significant of Manning’s new teammates play defense. End DeMarcus Ware, cornerback Aqib Talib and strong safety T.J. Ward were signed as free agents last month to a collective $32 million worth of 2014 salaries.
Manning already has worked with new receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who will account for another $6 million this season, along with returning targets Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Wes Welker and Andre Caldwell, as part of his private workouts last week at Duke University.
The new talent comes at the expense of departing standouts. For better or worse, Manning’s offense won’t be the same without running back Knowshon Moreno, receiver Eric Decker and left guard Zane Beadles.
“We lost many players and some great friends,” Manning said. “That’s the worst part about football. When you form some friendships with these guys and really put a lot of hard work in — the business side comes into play. We added some great players. I’m excited about working with them starting on Monday.”
But before starting anew, about that Super Bowl, Peyton. He broke nearly every significant NFL passing record during the 2013 regular season while leading the Broncos to their second consecutive 13-3 record and No. 1 playoff seed.
Manning was superb again through playoff victories against San Diego and New England to win the AFC championship game in front of the Broncos’ home fans at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
The Super Bowl, though, was a disaster from the first wayward snap. The Broncos were down 2-0 only 12 seconds after kickoff and trailed 29-0 only 12 seconds after the second-half kickoff.
All that was left from there was for the late-night comedians to tee off at the Broncos’ expense.
“I don’t really have a word for it,” Manning said of the Super Bowl. “Obviously, it was disappointing. We will use that to fuel us this offseason, and hopefully it will make us better. The front office has addressed some offseason needs via free agency, and of course the draft is coming up. It’s up to the players to put in the hard work in the weight room, in the film room and on the practice field to try to be a better team this year. It all starts Monday the 21st.”
He finished nearly every response by moving the discussion forward to Monday, to a new season. Manning is 38. Monday begins his 17th NFL season. He seems ready to work. Maybe he just wants to get out of that suit and tie.