History isn’t with Manning, even if his wits still are

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Denver Broncos first training camp session, July 26, 2012.

Peyton Manning heads out to his first Denver Broncos training camp session, July 26, 2012.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — First test passed: Peyton Manning is still Peyton Manning — at least when there’s a microphone in his mouth.

There will be just as many questions for the Denver Broncos’ new signal caller Friday when he takes the field around 2:20 p.m. for the team’s second day of training camp. If his Day 2 answers live up to those he gave on Day 1, the days of robotic rhetoric (Tim Tebow), smug looks (Jay Cutler)  and silence (Kyle Orton) may start to seem like distant memories.

When asked what it felt like to play in front of a record-setting crowd of over 4,300 in the Broncos’ first training camp session Thursday, the 36-year-old Manning said it was just “fun being around these guys that are 22, 23.”

Keep those cameras rolling, boys.

“It’s humbling” being around those young guys, too, Manning continued. “They tell you they enjoy watching you play on ESPN Classic. It’s not exactly what you want to hear.”

Thankfully for reporters frantically searching for someone who would tell them what they wanted to hear – Is the arm attached to the surgically-repaired neck of the Broncos’ new 96-million-dollar man was looking sharp? — they found wide receiver Andre Caldwell.

Another one of the team’s new veterans nabbed Manning’s best pass of the day – a 45-yard touchdown strike. Caldwell said it was proof enough for him that Manning’s arm strength was where it needed to be.

That was as concrete as the responses to that oft-asked question got.

Broncos head coach John Fox told reporters to ask Manning if he felt like his arm strength was improving. Well Peyton, could you give us an analysis of how you’re throwing?

“I’d say it’s a better question for Coach Fox,” Manning said.

The ring-around-the-roise continued when Manning gave ESPN yet another reason to pull a soundbyte from a Denver Broncos practice. Tom Jackson, speaking as a former Bronco and a former safety, asked Manning if he thinks his neck will hold up when someone finally plants a helmet into it.

Manning responded by saying he “had no concern over that.” Then he gave ESPN their money’s worth.

“I mean, I’m not begging James Harrison to blindside me by any means,” Manning said, namechecking the most-fined player in NFL history. “James, I love you, and don’t take this as a challenge, now. Go easy on me if you can.”

Harrison most certainly will not when his Steelers face the Broncos in both teams’ season opener on Sept. 9. For those hoping Denver’s season ends with a Super Bowl win, a quick glance at the list of 36-year-old quarterbacks who have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy might be as hard to regard as one of Harrison’s infamous hits.

Jim Plunkett, Johnny Unitas and yes, John Elway are the only three quarterbacks to win at Super Bowl at age 36 or older. And none of them spent the previous season on the bench.

So is Manning still Manning? So far, there’s no evidence to say he’s not. And hopefully for Bronco fans, Father Time is just as susceptible to his schmoozing as everyone else.

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