It was finally time to for Peyton Manning cut it loose.
The Broncos' prized free agent quarterback has been trying to squeeze every ounce out of the limited time he gets under the new collective bargaining agreement to continue his recovery from neck surgery and practice with his new teammates. Manning has been focusing on a point of emphasis daily, and on Monday that included working on deep passes downfield.
"It's good to do that," Manning said of testing his arm strength. "It's something we continue to work on. Obviously you have to work on it from my standpoint, from a rehab standpoint, and you want to try to work on it from a timing standpoint with your receivers."
Manning said he still has work to do in his rehab process, but the OTA practices are giving him a good measuring stick as to where he's at.
"You really see where you are on certain plays because you are making different types of throws and you're learning a lot and you can know what to continue to work on even harder in your rehab and some things you may just not quite be ready for yet," he said. "I think you really do get a good gauge going against the defense whereas before hand you're just throwing first just air and you may not find out and so this is good work from that standpoint."
Coach John Fox also had the team simulating game-line situations in the two-minute drill and working at the goal line.
Manning has familiarity with former Colts teammates Jacob Tamme and Brandon Stokley, but he's working to get as many repetitions in as possible with receivers new to him such as Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas and tight end Joel Dreessen. And the receivers are learning about how demanding Manning can be about executing on the field.
"Basically, he just wants us to do our job. If we do our job, everybody will be on the same page," Thomas said.
However, it's also a learning process for Manning, who is in a new town with new teammates and a new playbook to learn for the first time since his rookie season.
"I think he's doing tremendous," Fox said of Manning. "Physically, he looks the same to me as he's always looked. Whenever you get a new player out here, it's a new language, and he's making adjustments to that. Just like everybody else, we're hoping they get better every day."
Fox allowed that he believes the passing game is "way further along now than it was at this time a year ago." That's when Kyle Orton was still fending off Brady Quinn and Tim Tebow was mostly an afterthought - although the offseason program was wiped out by the lockout.
Manning was complementary of the Broncos' secondary, which was one of the front office's main focuses during the offseason. The quarterback said working against Denver's defense is going to make his unit stronger, although Fox said only time will tell if the investments have paid off.
"I'd rather understate and overproduce," Fox said of his defense. "We'll see how it works out, but I like what I see thus far."
Everyone seems to agree, however, that a future Hall of Fame quarterback working daily against a strong defense is only going to benefit everyone.
"I think it goes both ways," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "I don't think he's had a secondary, at least on the corner, that's been this good. So it gives him a good look. And we've never seen a quarterback like that around here so, it speaks for itself."