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Manning: Denver still Peyton’s place in 2015

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Retirement after the 2014 season is something that Peyton Manning admits that he has not considered.

“I certainly plan on being back if the Broncos will have me,” the Denver quarterback said. “But at this point, I’m kind of thinking about Oakland. I know this is the time where conversations about what head coaches are going to return, and I guess, for some reason I get to fall in that category.”

But so hysterical was the reaction of some Broncos fans to the 37-28 loss that more than a handful of followers suggested that the 38-year-old passer was done — or should even be benched in favor of third-year quarterback Brock Osweiler, a project with no NFL starts and no regular-season experience beyond inconsistent cameos late in blowouts.

The expectations around the Broncos — “Super Bowl or bust,” as defensive tackle Terrance Knighton has said — have created a joyless atmosphere outside the building. Losses are lamented as though they are the end of the world. Wins are criticized for lacking style points.

And with Manning hitting a speed bump this month — three touchdown passes against six interceptions as he battles through a thigh injury he suffered against San Diego on Dec. 14 — the “airing of grievances” of Festivus renown dominated Denver on Tuesday.

“There are, what, five great quarterbacks in the league?” asked running back C.J. Anderson “And he’s up there, maybe No. 1, No. 2. There are a lot of people right now who would take a four-pick Peyton Manning on their team.”

Manning still leads the league in touchdown passes. He earned his 14th Pro Bowl appearance when the roster of players for the all-star game was announced Tuesday. And even with a recent sub-par run of form, he is still the Broncos’ best hope for returning to the Super Bowl and having a chance to succeed where they failed last Feb. 2.

But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t take his first four-interception game in four years hard.

“I think as soon as you stop taking it hard I’m not sure you ought to be doing it as much,’ Manning said. “I think it should mean something to you, it’s got to matter to you.

“I’m envious that sometimes there’s guys (where you) can’t really tell if they’ve won or lost the day after games. I don’t have that in me.”

By Wednesday, he was over it. The Broncos had a practice with no helmets and no pads, owing to the short turnaround from Monday Night Football. A win is crucial for a team battered by injuries in recent weeks; the Broncos show the signs of a team buckling under the accumulated strain of 13 consecutive games. They need a break.

But Manning doesn’t need the longest break of all — retirement.

“I have no plans around those lines and I’m enjoying playing and looking forward to Sunday’s game and hopefully the game that will follow that,” he said.

SERIES HISTORY: 109th regular-season meeting. Raiders lead, 59-47-2. Denver has won six straight. The most historic meeting between these two teams was on Jan. 1, 1978, when the Broncos defeated Oakland 20-17 to win their first AFC championship.

–The Broncos placed a league-best nine players into the Pro Bowl, led by quarterback Peyton Manning, who was selected for the 14th time, and defensive end DeMarcus Ware, who earned his eighth career Pro Bowl nod.

Left tackle Ryan Clady was selected for the fourth time. Linebacker Von Miller, and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas will go for a third time. Tight end Julius Thomas, cornerback Aqib Talb and safety T.J. Ward earned their second career selections.

Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. is the Broncos’ only first-time Pro Bowler, capping a massive month in which he signed a five-year contract extension that could earn him $8.5 million a year if he plays out the deal.

The Broncos’ Pro Bowl complement is the second highest in club history, behind the 10 selections that followed the 1998 season in which they won a second consecutive Super Bowl.

Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders is a second alternate, and running back C.J. Anderson, who did not start until Week 11 but has averaged 122.9 yards from scrimmage per game since replacing the injured Ronnie Hillman at Oakland on Nov. 9, is a sixth alternate.

If Sanders gets bumped up to the Pro Bowl roster through withdrawals, it will mean the Broncos placed all four of their marquee free-agent pickups from last March in the 2015 Pro Bowl: Sanders, Ward, Talib and Ware.

NOTES: Among those not practicing or taking part in a limited manner Wednesday were safety T. J. Ward (neck, limited), right guard Manny Ramirez (illness), defensive tackle Mitch Unrein (illness) linebacker Lamin Barrow (illness),


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