(SportsNetwork.com) - If you were thinking the Denver Broncos' 43-8 thumping
at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII would cause Peyton
Manning to ponder his football mortality, think again.
The reigning NFL MVP, who turned 38 in March, surfaced in Denver on Wednesday
for the first time this offseason, and flashed a sense of urgency highlighted
by his organization's high-profile foray into free agency.
"I feel that I have a responsibility to the team to be on top of my game,"
Manning said before his appearance as a guest speaker for the local Boy Scouts
of America's annual sports breakfast at the Pepsi Center. "That's what I think
about every day when I lift weights and throw with my receivers -- doing my
job to help the Denver Broncos.
"That's what I've tried to do since I've been here and that's what I'll keep
doing until I stop playing."
A win in the big game had many speculating that Manning would indeed stop
playing and ride off into the sunset as a champion with his second Lombardi
Trophy -- legacy stamped, a thought process fueled by the fact that the five-
time MVP admitted he could see the "light at the end of the tunnel" of his
Only Manning knows if that's how things would have played out if Denver bested
Seattle, but the Seahawks' rout ensured there would be no happy ending to his
fairy tale, at least in 2014.
"I don't really have a word for it," Manning said when reflecting on his
team's disastrous effort against Seattle, one that put a black mark on what
was a record-setting regular season.
"Obviously, it was disappointing. You study it. You study the game just like
you do any game -- a win or a loss. What went well, what didn't go well. You
try to be better for it and that's what you have to do. We will use that to
fuel us this offseason and, hopefully, it will make us better."
Any remaining doubts Manning would be back for another run at the game's
ultimate prize ended in March when he was formally cleared to play after an
exam on his surgically repaired neck.
Since then, the 13-time Pro Bowl selection has been preparing for the grind of
another 16-game campaign, most recently working out at Duke University with
some familiar teammates like emerging tight end Julius Thomas, as well as some
new ones like free agent receiver Emmanuel Sanders.
"I had a chance to throw with Sanders down there in North Carolina and I'm
excited about playing with him," Manning said.
Like most, Manning was very impressed by John Elway's handiwork in free agency
which resulted in a haul that not only placed Sanders in the Rocky Mountains
but also high-profile defensive targets like pass rusher DeMarcus Ware,
shutdown cornerback Aqib Talib and ascending young safety T.J. Ward.
"I've communicated with them all," Manning continued. "I know Eli (Manning)
told me he was glad DeMarcus Ware was leaving his division. He can no longer
hit him and I'm glad he's on my team. Talib has been a tough player to play
against, so I'm glad he's on our team, as well as T.J. Ward."
Denver was always going to be a serious threat to get back to the Super Bowl
as long as Manning returned, but by "winning" free agency, the Broncos have
seemingly lapped an AFC field they were already dominating.
"The front office has addressed some offseason needs via free agency, and, of
course, the draft is coming up," Manning said. "(Now) it's up to the players to
put in the hard work in the weight room, in the film room and on the practice
field to try and be a better team this year."
Better remains a possibility, but the shelf life of this group remains about as
lengthy as that gallon of milk you picked up last night. The future isn't what
this team is about, though.
It's all about finishing that fairy tale the right way and living happily ever
"Absolutely, that's what I want to do," Manning said. "That's what the Denver
Broncos want to do. I'm glad to be a part of a team where that's what they
want to do. I want to try to do my best to do my part."