Playing with Brady’s Favorite Teammate
Peyton Manning on finding a rhythm with Wes Welker, and how Denver's wideouts remind him of Colts greats Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne
PETER KING: You’re one year into your comeback after all those neck surgeries. Do you notice any difference when you throw a deep ball?
PEYTON MANNING: Yeah, I do. You know, I just feel like I can have a better idea of when I have to throw it. I can maybe hold it for a tick longer if I need to, to kind of see the [coverage] angle a little bit. Hey look, don’t get me wrong now, Demaryius Thomas is easy to underthrow, let’s put it that way. Even Aaron Rodgers might underthrow him. This guy can flat go now. Eric Decker runs well too. But, yeah, I have more knowledge of what I can do and how I feel. And then, also, you just have more knowledge of them. You can’t get in one year what you had with great receivers like Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. But we did make a lot of strides last year, because they played a lot, and those guys stayed healthy and practiced every day. I do not get into comparisons with the Colts, but the best thing about Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne is they practiced every day. They never missed practice. I remember talking to Thomas and Decker last year, and they would say, ‘Tell me about those guys.’ First thing I would tell them: ‘They never missed practice.’ I can’t tell you what that does to your timing. I mean, how many more reps are you getting? Wes Welker, from everything I’m learning so far, sure seems like you’d almost have to amputate a limb to keep him out of practice. He is a football gym rat, which is what I always thought. I was talking to Clyde Christensen, who coached me with the Colts. Clyde goes, ‘Is Welker just like we thought?’ I said, ‘Absolutely.’ We always thought he was a grinder, a gym rat. It’s certainly nice to be playing with him.
KING: Did you ask Tom Brady for any advice on Welker?
MANNING: I didn’t go there. That’s a little awkward. Tom called me and told me how much I’m gonna enjoy him, that he’s one of, if not his favorite, teammate of all time. Tom just said how much he loves football. I found that out when [Duke coach and Manning friend David] Cutcliffe set up a great little mini-camp for us before we started OTAs. It was great, especially when you’ve got a new receiver. After every throw, there’s a discussion. Like, ‘Hey Wes, that’s exactly what I was looking for’ or, ‘Hey, I really think I need one more yard and stick at the top.’ Then he’s going, ‘Hey Peyton, I’m gonna stem outside.’ You know, it’s the conversation. If you’re just throwing and not talking, I’m not sure what you’re really doing. Then, any incompletion that we’re throwing, we’re throwing it again. If you just go on to the next route, what are you really doing? A lot of guys go out and throw the route tree. Let’s throw one hitch, one slant. Well, let’s say you go 12-for-12. I mean did you really master the route? How about: Let’s go throw 12 hooks and 12 outs? Let’s go 12-for-12 on those. Let’s master that route. Let’s simulate press coverage. Let’s simulate zone. Another thing: Wes is a texter at night. You know, he’ll be watching film and he’ll text, ‘Hey, I just saw the film of that play from today. I’m gonna push [the defensive back] up two more yards.’ That’s great for me. Helps us get on the same page faster. As a quarterback, when you get a receiver who’s like that, I mean, that gets you pumped up about football.
KING: What will you be doing in 15 years?
MANNING: That’s a good question. A very good question. [Pauses for six seconds ...] You know, a lot of times you’re in the locker room, and you hear guys talking about some investment or some appearance they’re gonna make, and how much money they’re gonna get from it, and I’m looking at them, thinking, That’s the guy who dropped two balls in practice today, or, That’s the guy who missed that block Sunday. The point is, this is what I do now, and I think I owe everything I’ve got to the Broncos to try to win this season. So I’m not going to answer that question. I do hope that what I do after football doesn’t get the quite the attention and news coverage it got the last time I changed teams and came here.
Check out The MMQB’s ongoing 3Q Interview series. Plus, check out this week’s issue of Sports Illustrated, featuring Peyton Manning and his Broncos receivers on the cover (in most regions) and a feature story by Chris Ballard. Available beginning Wednesday on newsstands, tablets and through our digital portal.