Peyton Manning doesn't want you calling him old.
But it's not because he doesn't realize being 39 in the NFL is a feat on its own, much less quarterbacking a team always aiming to get back to a championship.
It's because he's re-energized in a way he hasn't been since he returned to pro football following neck surgery and joining the Denver Broncos three years ago.
"I can tell you one thing - I am not bored in the least bit. I'm stimulated," Manning said after Wednesday's minicamp practice. "I'm studying, and I feel like I'm engaged and trying to learn something new from Gary Kubiak. I'm learning something new from Rick Dennison. I'm learning a little something from Owen Daniels."
Anyone who has done a sport or a job or a project for a long time knows Manning speaks the absolute truth. Change is good. The challenge of figuring something out, of struggling with and overcoming something new, keeps the same process from being a drag.
"I think change - instead of being stymied by any type of change, you can be stimulated by them," Manning added. "That's been true for me, and I think that's been a real positive, to tell you the truth."
After 17 years in the NFL, you think Manning has seen it all? Just about.
Until Gary Kubiak and Rick Dennison came to town and asked him to do it different - to practice different, to lead different, to play different.
And Manning is approaching a near paradigm shift the way any competitor does - with enthusiasm even if uncomfortable.
It's clear from Manning's responses to the media that not participating in every part of practice is probably not his first choice, and when he's asked about how he's coming along with the new offense, he often describes it as "a process."
But he's also "all in" on trying things a new way and doing what his coach is asking.
Following a question about whether Manning "liked the offense," the quarterback responded the best way he should.
"If I said I liked it or didn't like it, it would be mean that I thought my opinion mattered, which it doesn't," Manning said, after also saying he's not about to do "evaluations" in June. "It's our job to execute the plays and to make it work. I'm learning, and I'm learning about the requirements of me."
"There's got to be another story out there. I'm not doing June evaluations." #Manning when asked if he likes Kubiak's offense.— L.Lattimore-Volkmann (@docllv) June 10, 2015
One of those requirements has been to mentor the younger players - his backup Brock Osweiler as well as his very young offensive line.
"He's put in a lot of quality time with the other guys and the study habits that he has and the time that he has spent in the classroom has been exceptional," Kubiak said Wednesday. "It's just important for these young guys to get better, and he understands that he needs some help on this team. He needs some young guys to step up and help him be successful."
Kubiak acknowledged that while Manning would practice "every day and even longer than we ask him to," the coach has the big picture in mind and he believes No. 18 understands he is "helping the cause" by spending less time on the field and extra time mentoring the younger players.
"I think it's just a credit to him that he's able to [say], ‘Give me a group, and I'll make them perform well' or ‘I'll have them perform at their highest level,'" Kubiak said. "We're asking a lot of him right now especially up front, trying to get our guys going and come up with a good group up front. But his response to all of that has been exceptional."
For Manning, part of the key has been to make the most of the reps he's doing - which is scaled back on team reps but not on individual work with receivers.
"I think you've got to take advantage of it and try to also take advantage of the rest time or the weight lifting time where you come back and you feel good and you feel fresh," Manning said, adding he thinks there are positives to the approach. "That's what I'm trying to find out of them."
Also, the quarterback notes, it's not like he and the other veterans are taking naps on the sidelines.
"We're in there lifting weights, and we're working," he said. "We're in there actually doing more intense lifting than the guys that are doing the team work. We're out there for individual [drills] and we're doing walkthrough on blitzes, and so I still feel like we're practicing. We're just doing some alternate things."
Manning was candid in his comments about losing a few players to injury so early in the offseason, but he believes the extra time for the young players to get first-team reps is invaluable.
"I think it's definitely disappointing, but it does give you time to find a way to make the adjustments," Manning said, adding he is really disappointed not to be working with rookie Jeff Heuerman who tore his ACL during rookie minicamp. "It gives you more time. We've still got a lot of time during training camp to get a lot of reps and form that kind of chemistry that you're trying to form."
Some of that chemistry is coming with the running backs as the Broncos mesh the zone blocking scheme into the offense. With a dominant passing QB like Manning this kind of practice time is invaluable for incorporating that more balanced offense the team attempted mid-season last year. While the running game did take off, it was clear Manning was not fully comfortable. Not this year.
"I'm getting a ton of reps with [C.J. Anderson]. The sky is the limit for him, I will say that. I'm glad to be in there working with him," Manning said, adding that Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman are "having really good camps" too. "This is just part of the process, and we're learning, I'm learning. I'm committed and I'm all in on trying to make any adjustments that I have to."
At the same time, Manning knows what he's good at, and he has no intention of letting that go to waste.
"I'm trying to do some of the same things that I've done well," Manning said. "I'm going to hopefully try and keep doing those things well and improve on things that I need to improve on."