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Peyton Manning 'expecting big things' from Broncos' Pro Bowlers at 2024 Pro Bowl Games


ORLANDO, Fla. — In his first year as part of the NFL's reshaping of the Pro Bowl, Peyton Manning's AFC team didn't have much Broncos orange.

Cornerback Pat Surtain II was the team's lone selection to the 2023 Pro Bowl Games in Las Vegas, but this year, Manning's squad has more representation from Denver, with Surtain, safety Justin Simmons and return specialist Marvin Mims Jr.

With that larger group, Manning said Friday that he was glad to have some fellow Broncos on the field, and based on the week's two practices, the trio of Denver Pro Bowlers should be quite involved in the game on Sunday.

"I had a good conversation with Justin and Mims, and great to have Pat back," Manning said. "I'm expecting big things out of those guys on Sunday. [It's] great to see some Broncos representation down here."

Surtain and Simmons, each now two-time Pro Bowlers, are both starters on the AFC's defense. The pair of defensive backs combined for 139 total tackles, 20 passes defensed and four interceptions during a year that featured a remarkable midseason turnaround on defense. Mims, meanwhile, was the Broncos' first rookie since 2018 to be selected to the Pro Bowl, as he averaged 26.5 yards per kick return and 16.4 yards per punt return.

The increase in the Broncos' Pro Bowl representation is just one indicator of overall improvement by the team, as the franchise reached eight wins for the first time since 2016. Manning, who said during a recent episode of his "ManningCast" broadcast that he was hopeful for the team's playoff potential next season, explained that Broncos Head Coach Sean Payton is one reason why he has confidence in the team's direction.

"I'm very excited about Sean Payton and what he brings and his experience," Manning said. "Obviously, it's an extremely tough division. The Chiefs aren't going anywhere. The Raiders and the Chargers have new coaches. So we have to go get it. Nobody's coming back to us. Sean knows that, and he's going make that the focus all offseason. I'm excited for the Broncos' future."

On Friday, the Broncos' trio of Pro Bowlers took part in the 2024 Pro Bowl Games' first day of practice, with Peyton Manning as the AFC's head coach.

As for his involvement in the yearly Pro Bowl Games, Manning has embraced the experience and appears to have made it into a family trip. His younger brother, Eli, is the head coach for the opposing NFC team. Their father, Archie, took in practice from the sideline on Saturday. And Peyton's son, Marshall, helped throw passes to the players during warmups each day of practice and snapped the ball to the quarterbacks during walkthrough.

"It's been fun," the former Bronco said. "I've enjoyed being a part of it the past two years, and it's been fun to do it with Eli. The players that have come down and participated — obviously you can't get the Super Bowl players and you're going to have injuries — but we're just trying to let all the players know this is a great event, and we hope they continue to participate. This thing was going away, up until the NFL kind of made this change to make it more of a flag game. I think it was a smart move, and we need the players to buy in, and they have so far, which we appreciate."

The Pro Bowl's change from a normal tackle football game to flag football also now coincides with the sport gaining prominence at an international level, as the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles will include that variation of American football for the first time.

When told that Eli was asked about what it might be like to coach at that level, Manning wasn't content to just let his brother have that either.

"There's no way Eli's going to be able to coach, because I'd be the one coaching," Manning said. "He can watch us win. But look, I'm excited for flag football in the Olympics, and obviously it's a great week going on here with flag football championships. This is an exciting time. But yeah, I've heard [Dolphins receiver] Tyreek [Hill] saying he wants to try to make it. It'd be a competitive time for people trying to compete for the Olympic team. But that's exciting, and to debut in Los Angeles is even cooler."

On Saturday, the Broncos' three Pro Bowlers took part in the 2024 Pro Bowl Games' second and final day of practice, with Peyton Manning as the AFC's head coach.