ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Dove Valley is officially back in business.
The Broncos' offseason conditioning program kicked off on Monday, and there were plenty of smiles as teammates old and new got acquainted during their first official workout with Strength and Conditioning Coach Luke Richesson.
"Guys have been looking forward to this day, I think, for some time now," said quarterback Peyton Manning, decked out in Broncos gear. "It was a productive first day, but we have a lot of work to do."
The atmosphere was one of excitement at team headquarters, but as Manning alluded, this is not a time of year he takes lightly.
"I do believe in the offseason program -- I always have," Manning said. "I do not think you can just show up in September and expect to complete passes or execute in the running game. I do believe the weight room work and the on-the-field work – I wouldn't call it old school or old fashioned – but that's what I've always believed in. I have seen guys get better and I feel like I've tried to get better every offseason. I've tried to be a better player each year than I was the year before. That's from the film study of the previous year, but also from the offseason work."
The work on Monday consisted of a weight-room workout with Richesson, meetings with the coaching staff and an informal throwing session organized by Manning.
Wide receiver Eric Decker estimated that every receiver -- with the exception of Brandon Stokley, who hadn't yet signed with the team -- tight end and running back on the roster caught passes from Manning and fellow quarterbacks Caleb Hanie and Adam Weber on the practice field. On-field coach supervision isn't allowed yet under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
All 32 teams in the NFL have to abide by those restrictions, but Manning said they can serve as a benefit, forcing players to hold each other accountable and organize their own workouts to get better on the field in addition to in the weight room.
"Any time you have a chance to be out there, you take advantage of the opportunity to work on a timing route with (tight end) Joel Dreessen, with (wide receiver Demaryius Thomas) 'D.T.,' to work on a handoff with (running back) Willis McGahee, because you're just not allowed as much time as you used to," Manning said. "OTAs will be starting soon, training camp will be here and then you'll be playing the first game."
"I've always enjoyed working on timing in the month of April," he continued. "It comes into play in October on a critical third-and-5, if you will."
Manning said he and the receivers are looking to master one to two routes each day, and the chemistry the quarterback and his targets are building is invaluable.
"The more you're together, the better your relationship becomes," Decker said. "I think the more football you talk as well, you get on the same page. That's a big thing between the quarterback-receiver relationship is getting that time in the meeting rooms now and on the field and really understanding how I run routes, how he throws the ball, what he looks at for certain coverages and what kind of different adjustments we make in a game."
Decker, cornerback Champ Bailey and linebacker Von Miller all raved about the leadership Manning is already providing on the first official day of workouts leading up to the 2012 season.
"It makes you feel good about coming to work every day," Bailey said.
Manning himself can't wait to keep working as opening day nears.
"It's April 16, and we're just trying to build the foundation for what we hope our team will be like this year," Manning said. "Today was an exciting day."