Broncos QB Peyton Manning has 1st official practice; coach calls progress 'outstanding'

He's back. (Getty Images)
The Peyton Manning era began in earnest for the Broncos Monday. It was Day 1 of OTAs in a post-Tim Tebow world, and if first appearances are any indication of things to come, Denver will again be in the AFC West title mix next season. Manning, who missed 2011 while recovering from multiple neck surgeries, was released by the Colts in March, and promptly courted by a handful of quarterback-needy teams before choosing the Broncos.

The decision pushed Tebow out of town (and across the country) as the organization seemed to embrace the more traditional notion of what an NFL quarterback should be. In addition to Manning, the Broncos drafted near-term backup and eventual replacement Brock Osweiler in the second round of last month's draft. For now, though, this is about Manning, who appears to be returning to the form that made him one of the league's two best quarterbacks for most of this century.

"It felt good to be out there," he said after Monday's practice, according to Adrian Dater of the Denver Post. "I haven't really been out there like this for a year and a half. It's a day I've been waiting on for a long time. I've always believed you develop your timing for the passing game in the offseason. You can't just show up in September and expect to be on the same page. Offseason workouts, it's a great time to make an impression on the coaches. Coaches are always evaluating, so there are a lot of benefits from this work."

Manning admits that the Broncos' offense is a departure from what he was used to during his 14-year career with the Colts (which, it turns out, was about as simple -- and effective -- an NFL offense as you'll ever see). "Uh, yeah. There's no question it's different. You've got different terminology and different players. The more repetitions you get, the better. I do feel that on-the-field reps are the best reps. You can do your classroom work, which is important, and you have to study and take your notes, but there's nothing quite like going out on the field and executing the play, going against fast, defensive players."

Coach John Fox seems unconcerned. "[Manning's] getting better every day. His progress has been outstanding. We're excited where he is. I think he's pretty good right now, and we think he'll get better. He definitely raises all boats, that's for sure. That's not just with the young players, but with the veterans."

It's certainly a different conversation than the one Fox was having last offseason when he referred to Tebow as "a work in progress" and was trying to convince himself that Kyle Orton was his starter. (Incidentally, that lasted five weeks into the season.)

Earlier this offseason, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said that Tebow's accuracy left something to be desired and that he was "happy we got Peyton." On Monday, veteran cornerback Champ Bailey agreed.

“One thing about (this group of wide receivers), if they get open a little bit, they’re open a lot to [quarterback Peyton Manning]," he said. "That’s one thing that’s a big difference this year.”

Expect to hear some variation of this storyline for the rest of the summer and into the 2012 season.

The jersey may change but the pre-snap gesticulations remain. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

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CBS Sports Writer

Ryan Wilson has been an NFL writer for CBS Sports since June 2011, and he's covered five Super Bowls in that time. Ryan previously worked at AOL's FanHouse from start to finish, and Football Outsiders... Full Bio

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