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Broncos 'crank it up' with new playbook at up-tempo first practice

It was just day one of the voluntary veteran mini-camp - an extra three-day camp allowed to teams with new head coaches - and by all accounts, players were ecstatic to be back playing football and putting some legs into the new playbook.

As a sunny-and-60-degree day beckoned all the Broncos - sans two - back to the field Tuesday, the energy at Dove Valley appeared dynamic.

Make that with  "vim and vigor," according to Andrew Mason.

But there's good reason for such SAT-like descriptions.

Last season did not finish as expected, but it did end with swift regime change - and that appears to be a huge boost to the team's attitude.

And it's not just about high energy; it's about trying to impress the new coaches. Even for Peyton Manning.

"Like all of us, we're all trying to make an impression on this new coaching staff," Manning said. "I'm trying to do that."

Interesting thing for a five-time NFL MVP and 14-time Pro-Bowler to say, but not all that surprising since it's coming from Manning, the guy who doesn't stop studying football.

He's very challenging to coach because he's so bright and has been doing it for long, and that's a good thing. Nobody works harder. Nobody cares more.   -Coach Gary Kubiak on Peyton Manning

"I like being out there. I like working. I like learning," Manning said. "I've always enjoyed that part of it. I'm looking forward to learning Coach Kubiak's philosophies and trying to do my part as a quarterback. I'm looking forward to the process."

And new head coach Gary Kubiak appreciates that from his QB - even if it makes his job harder.

"Nobody works harder. Nobody cares more. He's very challenging to coach because he's so bright and has been doing it for long, and that's a good thing," Kubiak said of his quarterback.

The former backup quarterback to John Elway who later coached the Hall-of-Famer to a pair of Super Bowl wins said Manning reminds him of that quarterback as well as Hall-of-Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe.

"[Manning] wants to know why. Great players ask why. That's what great players do," Kubiak added."You better have those answers for them so that they can go compete. That's what you want."

So can we stop asking Kubiak and Manning if they can figure out an offense together already????

Apparently not. But Kubiak answered the same way he has been for three months (along with a slight reminder he has said this before).

"Like I said, we're going to do what he does best," Kubiak said. "Obviously if we run the ball well, which we plan on doing, we're going to move the quarterback at some point. It will be something that we work on. He has been very excited. He's been challenged. He said that to me a couple of times, ‘I'm challenged again. I'm having to learn new stuff because I've been doing this for so long.' I think that is good for all of us no matter how long you've been in the league."

And Manning isn't worried either

"I like to think I'm pretty versatile, believe it or not," Manning said. "I feel like I can execute whatever plays the coach calls. I feel the different offenses I've been in that I've executed the plays that the coordinator has called. I feel like I can do that. I feel good."

Someone else who believes he can get into this offense is second-year wide receiver Cody Latimer, who is definitely looking to be a contributor this season.

Trimming his 6-foot-2 frame down to 210 pounds, Latimer said he feels strong, prepared and in better shape. And the former Indiana Hoosier can't wait to get into this new offense.

"I love it. There is a lot of running. We get to block and there are a lot of deep throws," Latimer said. "That's something that we like - big chunks of yardage."

Latimer, one of a half-dozen Broncos who attended Manning's camp at Duke last month, also believes that couple of days was invaluable.

I love it. There is a lot of running. We get to block and there are a lot of deep throws. That's something we like - big chunks of yardage.  -Cody Latimer on the new offense.

"It gives you a big jump on everything," Latimer said. "You come out in the offseason and you know you have a new offense, but you haven't seen anything about it. Just being at Duke and knowing the different types of routes, formations and things we were going to have was a big help."

Manning believes in Latimer's potential as well.

"He's in good shape. Obviously he's excited for this opportunity. He knows that he's got a chance to play a big role on this team. I'm excited for him. He's got a great attitude," Manning said of No. 14. "He didn't get a chance to play a lot last year, so I'm pulling for him. I think he can make an impact on this team this year."

Fellow wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders is looking to have another impact year. Beginning his second year with the Broncos, the first-time Pro-Bowler had 101 catches for 1,404 yards last season and nine TDs.

Although the zone blocking scheme would indicate more of a running game, Sanders sees plenty of upside for the wide receivers - perhaps even more because defenses won't know which is coming.

"I think it is going to be really good for us - especially when we get Demaryius [Thomas] back - to have Peyton faking like we are going to run the ball if we've got the run game going and hopefully hitting me and Demaryius for 18-, 20-yard gains and sometimes deep balls," Sanders said. "That's how we're going to get our chance."

Demaryius Thomas is a sharp guy. I think he knows he has to be off in his playbook. Once he gets here, he is going to fit right in.   -Emmanuel Sanders on DT's holdout from team workouts.

Thomas' absence due to contract negotiations does not concern Sanders or Manning, though both are looking forward to having him on the field.

"Certainly you always like for everybody to be here during this time," Manning admitted, adding that DT is his teammate but friend as well. "This is the business side of it that comes into play. I'm pulling for it to work out best for him. Certainly you always like for everybody to be here and hopefully that will be soon."

Sanders noted that Thomas is "a sharp guy" and will no doubt be working on this offense even if not with the team.

"I think he knows that he has to be off in his playbook," Sanders said. "I think once he gets here and he gets that monkey off his back, that he is going to fit right in because he's been around this organization for a long time."

Brandon Marshall was the only other Bronco not to practice on Tuesday as the linebacker sat out after having surgery on his foot last month, but you can bet he's working hard to get on that field.

Marshall's partner-in-crime-to-be in the new 3-4 defense, Danny Trevathan, was limited in practice as he continues recovering from three injuries to his left leg last year but was ever the bulldog with his intensity.

"I can't do too much movement, but it's good for me. I get to work on my mindset," said Trevathan, who played a handful of games in 2014. "I had a year last year to work on it, but now I'm really strong with my mind. I don't like making mistakes. It's really going to help me with this defense."

"This defense" is not going to be much different for the inside linebacker who says he will "still be flying around" making plays.

"It's more about me reading my linemen and reading my keys, but still being instinctive and playing fast football," Trevathan added.

Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. agreed the adjustment to a 3-4 isn't tough; the main difference is new terminology. But beyond that, it's just aggressive play.

"I'm definitely excited about it. Every time you do something new, you get cranked up to learn something new and new techniques that you are learning," Harris said, adding that practicing the new scheme while working hard is good practice itself.

"We're just putting in a little bit of the basics today," he said. "As you're out here getting tired and learning the defense at the same time, you have to think while you're tired. That's a good thing, too."

A very good thing.