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Even as a backup, 'he's still Peyton Manning'

Posted Dec 30, 2015

Just because Manning won't be starting if he's in uniform Sunday doesn't mean he won't still be a team leader.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Peyton Manning isn't all the way back. He won't get to that point, at least not during this season. The nature of plantar fascia injuries ensures that.

But part of Manning is better than nothing at all. And even though he will serve as the backup if he makes his expected return in uniform Sunday against San Diego, he's in a better position to have an impact on the team -- and with his teammates on the sideline.

"There was one time that me, him and Brock [Osweiler] were all in one huddle during the Pittsburgh game," Anderson said. "I can't remember what we were talking about, but there's times he's come to me and said some things, and I took that advice like I always do, and I made it work.

"It's like another coach on the coaching staff. When he's on the field, he's another coach, and now he's just waiting his turn again. That's just a great thing."

Manning and Anderson

Moments like those that he's had on the sideline with teammates will increase with him back in uniform, practicing every day and ready to step in at a moment's notice.

"I know that I'm glad that I can get back on the practice field this week and be more of a participant and hopefully more of a resource to the team," Manning said. "When you're in street clothes, you're not practicing and you're kind of on your own rehabbing, you just don't feel like you can help all that much.

"I've tried to help some. I've tried to be there for Brock and be there for any questions they've had, but I can be more of a help to the team now that I'm more available."

And he has teammates looking forward to -- and ready to rely upon -- his counsel.

"He knows his role, and at the end of the day, he's still Peyton Manning," Anderson said. "Whatever he sees on the football field, if he pulls us aside and tells us, we'd be idiots not to listen to him."

They'll listen, and Manning will have an impact on the Broncos' pursuit of a world championship, even if he never makes it off the sideline during a game.

"He's just that player, man. He's a great player. He's a great teammate," Anderson said. "He's trying to win -- whether he's in or not in, he's trying to win. You see somebody who's trying to win, and is not worried about himself."

Anderson has spoken over the last two years about what he's learned from Manning, and how he's learned to see and study the game better because of him. It's helped him become one of the league's best running backs in blitz pickup; he learned to see blitzes developing before the snap because he learned how to see what Manning saw.

Now he's learning another lesson from the 18-year veteran quarterback: how to handle a reduced role. That's difficult for anyone who is as competitive in the NFL, and especially so for Manning, given his success and relentless work ethic.

"He has ups and downs and his career, and he's handling it well," Anderson said. "We all have up and down times. But when you have a leader that can come up to you, and you can see him do it, you can push through, too."

And the result is a locker room that remains undivided. Many quarterback issues cause fissures within the team. This one hasn't.

"He's handling it well from that standpoint. At the end of the day, we've got to go play football. It doesn't matter: You can go line up at quarterback this Sunday," Anderson said. "We've got to go play football no matter who's lined up under center.

"That's how we looked at it all season, whether it's Peyton or Brock, Trevor [Siemian], or if it got even worse, whoever else. We've just got to go play football and win games."