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Quarterbacks steal the show at Media Day

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Media Day, aka "Opening Night," was everything the NFL wanted - big and crazy and full of personality. But I'm with Andrew Mason on this - let's get to the news conferences that actually discuss football.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Good morning from Super Bowl City, Broncos Country!

Phew, Media Day is over, and I, for one, am quite happy about that.

But despite its insanity, one thing was very clear during the live NFL Network event that drew tens of thousands of spectators and no doubt tens of millions of viewers - the players enjoyed it.

Though many Panthers players admitted it was bigger than they imagined, players from both teams appeared to appreciate all the pomp and circumstance that was in place to honor their participation in the NFL's 50th Super Bowl.

The coach and 10 players from each team were announced individually as they entered the room several stories above ground and walked along a catwalk that stood above a grand stage and below a mammoth screen.

Among the booths set up in a half-dome, it was no surprise that the biggest stage front and center was reserved for each team's quarterback.

Even - or perhaps especially - Peyton Manning seemed to enjoy his time in the media's spotlight (and there were hundreds of spotlights) and spent a majority of the hour-long Q&A making jokes out of serious questions.

Asked about his comment to Bill Belichick following the Broncos' win over the Patriots - which was reportedly, "this may be my last rodeo," and was something Manning was not happy to talk about last week in his presser - the quarterback employed "commercial Manning" rather than "news conference Manning."

"I said I want to be in rodeos," Manning told the throng of reporters. "Yeah, I think it was very clear, ‘I want to be in rodeos.'"

Although Manning did give one serious answer to the question about if he is considering retiring after the Super Bowl, he mostly deferred through jokes - "I think it's really more important whether Kubiak decides to stay on next year," Manning said. "Come on, let's get our priorities straight here guys."

Manning also hinted that he was expecting the Panthers to "spy" him thanks to his big running first down last weekend.

But Manning was serious when he talked about his lack of arm strength, taking on the Panthers defense, and Newton's strengths as a quarterback.

"No doubt in my mind he's going to be the [NFL] MVP," Manning said. "He's been a great passer, he's been a great runner, he's been a great leader. You don't go 17-1 as a starting quarterback without being awesome and that's what he's been this year without a doubt."

And Manning was reflective about embracing all the chaos that Super Bowl week has to offer.

"It's not something you just want to hurry up and get through the week and get through the game," Manning said. "We're all looking forward to the game, I know our whole team is, but Super Bowl week is special, it's unique, it's different and I think Coach Kubiak has emphasized and encouraged us to enjoy it and soak it up."

Panthers' quarterback Cam Newton - who became a spectacle long before the media event thanks to the snazzy black and gold pants he wore Sunday - definitely seemed to enjoy his time in front of a huge crowd.

Although there was no dabbing to be witnessed, the flashy QB had plenty to say (occasionally it even had something to do with football). Earlier in the evening, Manning told the press he believed Newton would - and should - win the the NFL MVP award.

"Anything that the sheriff has to say, you can probably ink it in gold," Newton said. "It's just a tremendous honor to be even mentioned and affiliated with the face of the league."

Players on the Broncos defense were asked frequently how they are going to handle the 6-foot-6, 260-pound quarterback on Sunday.

"It is hard to plan for a guy like that. I mean he has a lot of weapons, just got to try and take them all away," said safety T.J. Ward. "You know, stop them from running the ball, try to get pressure on him like any other quarterback, make his throws harder, and don't give him so much time back there."

That last tactic is good advice. Pro Football Focus reported that Cam's average time in the pocket was 2.7 seconds each play - by comparison Manning averages 2.34 seconds - but if Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware can get there with their usual blazing speed, it could be a long day for Newton.

Miller noted that Newton is "amazing" while Brandon Marshall called him the X-factor for the Panthers.

Either way, the Broncos know they will face perhaps the NFL's best quarterback on Sunday - and they want to be ready.

"It is tough. He is athletic, 6'6'', 270 pounds, 4.4 (40-yard dash)," Miller said. "He is tough. From a physical standpoint, he is smart, strong and athletic. You put all of those together and it is extremely tough to take him down."

But they're going to try, and Broncos backup quarterback Brock Osweiler has been tasked with getting the defense ready to do just that.

"It is extremely difficult," Osweiler said of his assignment leading up to the Super Bowl. "Cam Newton is one of the best players in the National Football League and he is one of those guys that I don't think you can simulate. I have done my absolute best to give those guys a great look over the past couple weeks."

Brandon Marshall, who will likely be called upon quite a bit to stop Newton - along with running back Jonathan Stewart - knows Sunday is going to be a full day of attack-mode.

"I think he's a hell of a quarterback. He's a great dual threat. The guy does it all and he's definitely hard to stop," Marshall said.

But the Broncos are going to have to do just that, and Marshall says there is a plan: "We've got a lot of surprises for Cam."

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