ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --As Peyton Manning prepares to make his return to Indianapolis, Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway said he feels for what the quarterback is experiencing this week.
Elway sat down with Chris Hall of Broncos TV to discuss the Broncos' upcoming road game with the Colts – and Manning's return to Indianapolis – during the Week 7 edition of the Elway Access Podcast presented by US Bank Flex Perks.
"I kind of have compassion for Peyton in the fact that he's going back to a place that he was there for 14 years," Elway said. "As I said when Peyton signed here and left Indianapolis, it would have been hard for me to imagine having to leave the Denver Broncos, especially after 14 years. There was always that great connection that you have with the team that drafted you, and that you put your heart and soul in for so long. I can understand the emotions that Peyton is going through."
Elway pointed out, however, that he's confident Manning's focus will remain locked on trying to push the Broncos' record to 7-0 and pick up a win in a difficult road environment.
"But he's also a professional and realizes how important this game is because the Colts are a good football team and they're going to be in the mix of this whole thing in the AFC when it comes down to the end," Elway said. "That's why it makes it that much more important."
On the heels of a 19-9 loss at San Diego on Monday Night Football, the Colts will look to rebound against the Broncos – and Elway noted that he expects a determined effort from the Broncos' opponents this week.
"It's going to be tough," Elway said. "Obviously, with the Colts coming off a tough loss in San Diego on Monday night, they're going to be ready. They're a talented football team. Robert Mathis, one of the best pass rushers in the league, they're good in the secondary. They can do a lot of different things with the 3-4 defense that they do and create pressure."
And those challenges won't come solely from the Indianapolis defense, as Elway also discussed the capabilities that the Colts have on the offensive side of the ball.
"You look on the offensive side, with them getting Trent Richardson – plus Andrew Luck, who's very, very solid, young, and I think is going to be a great quarterback in this league for a long time," Elway said. "They're a good, well-rounded football team."
And while Elway looked forward to the Broncos' upcoming Sunday night showdown, he also reflected on the team's 35-19 win over Jacksonville last week – a showing that he said was "a good perspective game for us in the fact that we saw what we need to improve on."
"I think that Jacksonville came in here and they played tough, they played very well," he said. "Obviously, we made some mistakes that stopped us offensively and they made some plays on their offensive side. But when you're complaining about 35 points, you're in good shape. A lot of times, when you go through this whole thing and you go through the season, it's all about perspective, whether you're winning or losing."
On the subject of linebacker Von Miller's return from a six-game suspension, Elway said that he's "thrilled" to have the franchise's single season sack record holder back on the field – and that he believes Miller is equally thrilled to be back after undergoing some "very tough times" through his suspension.
"I think Von has done a tremendous job in the six weeks that he was suspended," he said. "He worked out very hard with our weights coach, Luke Richesson, and he is bigger and he's stronger."
Despite the excitement of having Miller back, Elway emphasized the importance of the process of reintegrating Miller back into the defense.
"When you miss six weeks, it's always tough to come back," Elway said. "No matter how hard you work in that weight room or try to condition, it's hard to get into football shape unless you're playing. We've just got to be careful with Von, but we're thrilled that he's back. He's taken some great strides in the period that he's missed and we have great expectations for him to come back and be the Von Miller we know he is."
And, as Elway pointed out, it's tough to ignore how Miller's presence and tenacity on the field could impact the defense.
"Anytime you have a pass rusher with Von's capability, it's going to help you," Elway said. "Plus, it gives you another healthy body. You can keep everybody fresh."
"Just as a defense, Von's playmaking ability is going to help us as a whole," he added.
Miller's return means that the Broncos will have to do some more roster shuffling in order to make room for the linebacker on the active 53-man roster – the team signed rookie wide receiver Tavarres King to the active roster earlier this week.
"We've got to make another move at the end of the week," Elway said. "We're still considering who that's going to be. Those are always tough to make."
Ultimately, however, all eyes will be on Sunday's showdown in Indianapolis – and Elway said that the Broncos will need to come ready to play their "best game."
"They're a good, well-rounded football team," Elway said. "It's going to be, obviously with Peyton going back in there, playoff anticipation, playoff excitement and hopefully we can meet that as a football team and know that we're going to have to play our best game. We're not going to be able to make very many mistakes while we're there."