INDIANAPOLIS -- If anyone had complete faith that quarterback Peyton Manning would return to form after missing a year with a neck injury, it was John Elway.
The Broncos executive vice president of football operations brought Manning to Denver in one of the biggest free agent signings in NFL history, and was all-in behind Manning at quarterback.
But even Elway acknowledged Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine that Manning's MVP-caliber performance in 2012, which earned him the league's Comeback Player of the Year award, exceeded expectations.
"If you look at the numbers, what he did, he had a tremendous year," Elway said. "In talking to different guys that have kind of been through what he's been through when it comes to that neck, there's a lot more to it than I think that I knew."
"Now that I know what he had to go through and the things that he had to overcome with that neck, not so much physically, but mentally, he did a tremendous job in the way he worked at it," Elway continued. "But I'm looking forward to next year, too. I think he's just going to continue to get better."
Head Coach John Fox said much of the same on Thursday, predicting that with a full offseason to work on his entire body -- as opposed to just rehabbing his arm and neck -- Manning will "just get stronger and better."
Helping that process will be the talented players around him, not the least of which are wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker.
"When I sat down with Peyton last year in the recruiting process, I said, 'You've got to understand the talent we have at wide receiver; we've got two young guys that are really something special with the size, speed, competitiveness that we have,'" Elway recalled. "It showed up this year with the years that they had, and also the year Peyton had."