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Horse Tracks: Breaking Bad at Mile High

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Breaking Bad may have won for best drama at The Emmy's last night, but we all know that what's going down at Mile High is far more interesting. This morning we are (still) talking Peyton Manning, Matt Prater and Wes Welker while looking ahead to a short practice week before Thursday's game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, Broncos Country!

Emmanuel Sanders' spectacular return to the field in his Broncos debut on Saturday was one of the biggest highlights of the weekend.

And although Broncos fans were jumping for joy over his two touchdown catches, I have a feeling many were secretly also breathing a sigh of relief that the free agent seemed to finally earn the hype that came with his arrival to Denver last spring.

But if you heard the wide receiver on Monday, you'd probably feel guilty for ever doubting that this former Pittsburgh Steeler was worth it.

"I actually feel better. I felt good after the game. I was actually kind of excited and happy that the quad held up and that I got out of there injury free and it felt good," he said. "So I'm optimistic that I'll be back out here practicing on a daily basis and continuing to get better and gain chemistry with Peyton."

Sanders said he'd be ready to play slot if necessary while Wes Welker is recovering from a concussion; he'd even return punts if it would help the Broncos.

"I'm here to win and I'm willing to do whatever it takes in order for us to win, whether it's me moving into the slot role, me staying on the outside - whatever I've got to do in order to make this football team better, I'm willing and capable of doing."

You just made Broncos Country swoon with that comment, Mr. Sanders.

Positive signs for Welker's return

Per NFL concussion protocol, Welker did not practice Monday, but Coach John Fox said the slot receiver who suffered the third concussion of his career on Saturday is in "very good" spirits.

"We just take it one day at a time," Fox said of Welker's return. "I know it's coach speak, but it's truly the truth. We'll see how he gets through today... we'll see what tomorrow brings."

Wes, we're not worried about Wes. He's an upbeat guy. He's going to bounce back, no doubt about it. - Emmanuel Sanders, Wide Receiver

Sanders said he talked to Welker and believes he'll be back playing as soon as he can.

"Wes, we're not worried about Wes," Sanders said. "Wes is a positive guy, upbeat guy. He's going to bounce back, no doubt about it, and I've got all the confidence in the world that when he comes back he's going to continue to make plays for us."

Prater apologizes to team, says he 'made a mistake'

Following a sub-par game Saturday, Broncos kicker Matt Prater, one of the NFL's best, learned he would be suspended four games for his third violation of the NFL's alcohol policy. Prater was humble if not slightly defensive at times in his press conference Monday as he apologized to the Broncos' front office, his teammates and fans and took full responsibility for the suspension.

"I don't have an excuse for it. I screwed up and now I'm paying the price for it," Prater said of his choice to drink knowing he was at risk of violating NFL rules after testing positive for a DUI in 2011. "Now I'm going to dedicate myself to working out and getting stronger in the time I have off. I'm not going to drink as long as I'm in this program."

In the meantime, rookie backup Mitch Ewald plans to take advantage of the opportunity but Prater's suspension doesn't really change his approach.

"At the end of the day, there's an opening there," Ewald said. "Is it for me? I don't know. I've just got to keep working hard."

Just can't get enough of this Man(ning)

And finally, just when you thought everything excellent that could be written about Peyton Manning had been, Dan Pompei comes along yesterday with a brilliant piece on a guy who almost just makes it too easy.

We've had way too much fun the past two days enjoying Manning's new fiery attitude - which showed up in practice last week and then again in the infamous taunting penalty on Saturday - but Pompei's feature will remind you why we are so damn lucky to have this guy as our quarterback.

On one side of Manning is Emmanuel Sanders. On the other, Cody Latimer. ...For 20 minutes at the end of a long day at the team hotel during training camp, Manning is working with two new acquisitions so they are on the same page with cadence, code words and signs. They have to know him. He has to know them. Sleep can wait.

The brilliance of Pompei's article, though, is its surprises. Like the fact that while a college phenom at the University of Tennessee invited on The Late Show with Dave Letterman, Manning actually studied film on Letterman the way he would scout another team.

Or that Manning's perseverance and work ethic is not just from his dad (whose own high standards for himself and his kids are well-documented) but also from his Uncle Sid, who owns a general store in Philadelphia, Miss., started 107 years ago by his and Olivia Manning's father, Cooper Williams.

Or my favorite - before the future Hall-of-Famer's first rookie minicamp at the Colts, their No. 1 draft pick asked positions coach Bruce Arians to set up a VCR in the hotel room so he could go over plays.

The next day at the practice facility, Manning steps in the huddle and knows every play. Doesn't even use a wristband.

"I don't know if he even slept that night," said Arians, who now is the head coach of the Cardinals. "When he stepped in the huddle and started calling everything, the rest of the guys just stopped. It was amazing."

I'd leave the cliffhanger for you to read on your own, but you know the ending - it's the one where Manning does a gut check after the Super Bowl loss and decides if he thinks he wants to try again.

If you watched Saturday's game against the Texans, you know how he answered that one. But it is still worth every minute you spend reading that article.

Just so we don't forget to say anything about our Defense...

How about this gem from Terrance Knighton:

Horse Tracks:

  • Although Cody Latimer wasn't nearly as impressive against the Texans as he was in the previous two preseason games, look for him to get some good playing time against the Cowboys. Listen to this interview with Latimer about his goals for contributing to the team.
  • Sunday was the birthday of former Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan. Here's a nice recap of an amazing 21-year career with the Broncos.
  • While the Broncos' kicking woes continue, could Jay Feely become a Bronco? The Arizona Cardinals kicker was released yesterday and people are talking.
  • Around the NFL's talking heads are talking MVP for 2014...and no one is picking Manning. Look who they think will be better this season.
  • Like him or hate him, Patriots QB Tom Brady was showing his former teammate and current Bronco some love yesterday when he said it was 'tough to see' Wes Welker go down with a concussion.
  • Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll denies "opening up the playbook" though Seattle players are calling their 2014 offense "explosive."
  • Just for fun, here's an "Ask Me Anything" by Matt Prater on Reddit.