ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --In Denver, rookies better learn quickly -- especially on the offensive side of the ball.
"If I were a rookie, it would be a harder learning curve just because it is Peyton Manning and you want to make sure you're perfect because that guy is a perfectionist," wide receiver Eric Decker said. "He does things the right way. He demands the best out of everybody. I think it just makes you work that much harder."
Fortunately for those rookies, Manning has a hands-on approach to make sure they keep up with the veterans.
Take, for example, rookie running back Montee Ball. Throughout OTAs, Manning has stayed on the field after practice to work with him as he adjusts to the NFL game.
"Just kind of going through plays, going through games, getting him comfortable hearing audibles at the line of scrimmage," Manning said of the post-practice sessions. "Because we are going to count on him in a big way this year. He's a rookie, but (Head) Coach (John) Fox is not going to bring him along slowly. We are going to put him in there and make him a contributor this year. So, the more repetitions we can get out here talking football, talking scenarios, I think the more comfortable he'll be once the regular season gets here."
He has also tried to help in the meeting rooms.
Manning said he understands that rookies are sometimes hesitant to ask questions because they don't want to look like they're falling behind. But that can be harmful to their progress.
"I tell Montee Ball, 'If you don't ask questions, then we assume you know exactly what it is you are doing. Then that's on you if you don't know,'" he said.
But that work goes beyond just the rookies. Manning has also pulled aside another running back, Ronnie Hillman, and even newcomer Wes Welker after practice.
The quarterback said his new wide receiver is hard at work to make sure he picks up the Broncos' offense as quickly as possible, and Manning wants to help however he can.
"You hear Wes asking a question, I'll stand up and say, 'Hey look, this is kind of what we're thinking on this play and let's just get it all out in the open,'" Manning said.
Not that Welker needs much help. Fox called the veteran "arguably the most productive slot receiver in the league over the last five years," and his five 100-catch, 1,000-yard seasons in the past six years speak to that notion.
Manning said the way the receiver can read defenses reminds him of a quarterback.
"The knowledge of football that he has — going back to his college days and the sophisticated system he played in New England, his experience with (Patriots QB) Tom (Brady) — he's a very knowledgeable player," he said. "Really, some of the coverages that he sees reminds me of the one year I played with Marshall Faulk. Marshall Faulk could read coverages like a quarterback back there in the backfield. Wes has great knowledge for defenses, which I think has been a huge weapon for him in his successful career."
Whether he's working with a rookie running back or a 10th-year wide receiver, Manning said constant dialogue is the key.
And that extra work can only help the team come September.