ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) The long-term benefit of getting Peyton Manning so much rest this summer is that he should be fresher in December.
September might not be so smooth.
With longtime apprentice Brock Osweiler getting so many snaps this summer, Manning's work has been curtailed and the quarterback who has long despised taking a day - or even a play - off, was 8 for 15 for 52 yards in his preseason debut last week.
Four possessions. Four punts.
Sure, teammates dropped passes and committed costly penalties against Houston, but the league's only five-time MVP also showed some rust that he's normally brushed off by now.
''Well, maybe it's not what he's used to,'' general manager John Elway said Thursday. ''But I just think that at 39 years old, he can't work like he used to work. And he's got to be able to save that. He may not be as far along as he wants to right now because he hasn't had that work, he'll be much farther along in December by taking this time off, when we're really going to need him.''
Elway added that with a new coaching staff, ''there is going to be some growing pains early in the year. You just hope that it doesn't affect you enough where it costs you any football games.''
Coach Gary Kubiak has given Manning every few days off during training camp, and Manning has yet to take a snap with his pair of Pro Bowl receivers lined up on either side.
Just when Demaryius Thomas got up to speed after missing the Broncos' offseason program in a contract stalemate, Emmanuel Sanders pulled his right hamstring Aug. 6 and hasn't practiced since. He's not expected to play in either remaining preseason game but is on pace to return to practice next week, Kubiak said.
Manning also has three new O-linemen who have never played an NFL regular season down, although one of them, rookie Max Garcia, is about to be replaced by two-time Pro Bowl guard Evan Mathis, who signed this week and is working his way into ''football shape.''
That leaves two NFL novices - Ty Sambrailo protecting his blindside and Matt Paradis snapping him the ball - on a line that also features veterans Louis Vasquez and free agent acquisition Ryan Harris.
The offense isn't nearly as far along as Denver's defense.
''It's going to be a work in progress through the year, too,'' Elway said. ''We're not going to be kicking on all cylinders. We'd like to, but it's still going to be a work in progress with this offense and people are going to continue to get more and more comfortable with it, even after we start the regular season.
''But I think ... where we are right now is good.''
As for Manning's health, a lot was made this week of his comment to Peter King that he still can't feel his fingertips four years after a series of neck surgeries threatened to derail his career.
Manning noted Wednesday that's ''nothing really new from what I've kind of said all along. I feel pretty good.''
Manning has a better completion percentage in Denver than he did in Indianapolis and he's also averaged 44 touchdown passes with the Broncos, about 15 more than he did with the Colts.
So, Elway isn't worried about his QB.
''Well, if I threw for 5,400-something yards and 55 touchdown passes, I wish my fingers would have been numb, too,'' Elway said.
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