Manning says learning new offense is humbling
The Associated Press
Peyton Manning baffled defenses for years by using strange words such as “ice cream” and “soul train” at the line of scrimmage.
The four-time NFL MVP is struggling to grasp a new language now, though it didn’t show in his debut with Denver.
“That’s been one of the hardest things, learning new terminology, new formations,” Manning told Tony Dungy on NBC’s “Football Night in America.”
Coming off four neck surgeries that sidelined him all of 2011, Manning made a triumphant return Sunday night with his new team. Manning threw two touchdown passes to lead the Broncos over the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-19.
Manning, who is known for masking his emotions, was surprisingly candid in a pregame interview with Dungy, his former coach in Indianapolis. He said he’s “not even close” to being settled in Denver and always thought he’d play for one team.
The biggest adjustment for Manning has been understanding the offense.
“As you know, in Indianapolis we kind of had a unique language, and it didn’t carry over to any other team,” Manning said. “So that’s been humbling for me. A lot of times these coaches do a double take and say, ‘I thought you were supposed to be this smart quarterback. How come you keep having to run it again?’ But there has been no carryover. That’s presented a challenge, but that’s a challenge I’ve embraced.”
Manning was considered a maestro on the football field with the Colts. He was a master at dissecting defenses and changing plays at the line. Manning had an odd way of calling audibles, putting on a show with his gyrations, finger-pointing and foot-stomping.
It may take him a while to be that animated in Denver. But even a tamer Manning can be successful.
“I always thought I’d play for the same team the entire time, but I’m still going through the transition process,” Manning said. “Everybody keeps asking me, ‘Are you settled yet? Are you settled yet?’ Really, not even close.”
Manning spent 14 seasons with the Colts, and led them to a Super Bowl title with Dungy on the sideline in 2006. He became the most prized free agent in NFL history when he was released in March.
Two weeks after a tearful goodbye in Indianapolis, Manning signed a five-year, $96 million deal. The 36-year-old Manning has to prove he’s worth it because that contract can be voided after this season if his health doesn’t hold up.
“What I learned about myself is that I could handle that type of football adversity,” Manning said. “It was difficult because of the scenario with the team struggling so bad, but I think the same year that probably the greatest physical gift that the Lord gave me was taken away from me, I was blessed with the greatest gift any of us could have with two beautiful children.”
While Manning adjusts to a new offense in Denver, his counterpart in the season opener had a similar situation this summer. Ben Roethlisberger, the two-time Super Bowl-winning QB for the Steelers, is working with a new offensive coordinator after Bruce Arians was let go.
The laid-back Arians was replaced by the fiery Todd Haley, former head coach in Kansas City. Roethlisberger had a close relationship with Arians and didn’t make it a secret he wanted him to stay.
But he told NBC’s Bob Costas the transition to Haley has been “a good process and every day it’s growing.”
If Haley gets in Roethlisberger’s face on the sideline as he did at times with Kurt Warner in Arizona and Matt Cassel in Kansas City, don’t look for a confrontation.
“It will probably be deserved, I hope,” Roethlisberger said. “If it’s deserved, no problem. I’m sure he will at one point. Every coach, at some point, their temper starts to come out. But when it comes to that time, we’ll be able to deal with it and move on.”
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