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Time to 'Zip It' on Questioning Manning's Velocity?

Posted May 29, 2013

Teammates say Peyton Manning's passes are arriving with even more 'zip' this offseason.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The offense is moving faster at organized team activities than it did last year. So are Peyton Manning's passes.

“We worked out at Duke in March or April and I definitely felt like he had more zip on the ball," wide receiver Eric Decker said. "I think he’s come back stronger."

Last year, "zip" was tossed around among pundits more often than footballs during Denver's practices.

"Does Manning still have the same zip on his passes?" … "Can he still throw with zip?" … Over and over again, it came up. This year, not so much. Some of that is attributable to being more comfortable with his targets, but much of it is Manning himself.

"I think (the ball) coming to you quicker can be he reads and comfort level with the receivers, too," Decker said. "But I think some of those throws that he fits in the holes, you feel a little more zip on it and he is getting it to you quicker."

In 2012, his first season after multiple neck surgeries, Manning repeatedly reminded inquisitors that he was still in the midst of his rehabilitation and still didn't feel like he did prior to his surgeries.

All the while, he piled up season-long numbers that were the second-best of his career across the board and broke a slew of Denver single-season records. There was an adjustment to be made, and few ever made it better, even if Manning knew -- and still knows -- that things are different.

"I’m not sure if I’ll ever get back," Manning said when workouts began. "I hope I’ll get back to where I was before the surgery, but whether that’s possible or not, I’m probably never going to know the answer to that until I stop playing."

Even a Manning throwing off-speed passes predicated on exquisite timing rather than raw power was arguably the best in the sport last year -- and the best some Broncos had ever witnessed first-hand.

"I think he's gotten a little stronger, but I can't really say, because it's my first time playing with a quarterback like Peyton," said wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. "It was fun this past year, because I'd never had balls come at me like that -- on time and stuff like that."

Yet that hasn't been enough for Manning, who still considers himself under the jurisdiction of team trainers.

"I’ve certainly made some improvements since last year. But I still have a plan with the trainers, a plan with the strength coaches. The trainers and coaches have plans for each player, so we sat down and made our offseason plans and set some offseason goals and hopefully we can reach those," he said in April.

"I’m still in a get-stronger rehab mode and I think I’ll be that way for a pretty good while, I believe."

Which won't be a problem, Decker believes.

"With the program that we've got -- it’s unbelievable the amount of muscle mass and endurance that guys have and the cut-down of injuries that we had last year," he said. "I think that’s a compliment to the strength and conditioning staff here and I think Peyton is one of those that took advantage of it and really got himself in good shape and is stronger and healthier this year."

And, yes, he's throwing the football with "zip." Which means maybe it's time to zip it with all the questions about his arm strength.