Evaluating Peyton Manning's first Broncos practice

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Evaluating Peyton Manning's first Broncos practice

From Comcast SportsNet
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) -- His passes were hitting receivers in stride and right between the numbers, not skipping off the ground or whizzing behind their heads like so many of Tim Tebow's. The Denver Broncos got their first real taste of Peyton Manning on Monday with a spirited, fast-paced workout, the four-time MVP's first full practice in more than 16 months. "It felt good to be out there. It's been a while for me," Manning said. "It's been about a year and a-half since I've been in uniform, been in an organized practice. So, it felt good to be out there. And it will be a good film to study." Monday also was the first chance for the media to get a look at the progress Manning has made since a series of neck operations sidelined him all of last season and led to his release from the Indianapolis Colts. And Manning looked great, showing zip and accuracy on his passes, comfort under center, complete command of his offense and no ill effects from the nerve injury that caused weakness in his throwing arm. "Man, it feels good to know he's going to be on my side because what I saw today, he's going to give us some good work," star cornerback Champ Bailey said. "And we might not see a quarterback like that all year." Manning became the most prized free agent in NFL history following his release from the Colts after 14 seasons. His signing in Denver led to Tebow's trade to the New York Jets, despite a thrilling run to the playoffs guided by the younger QB. The Broncos and a handful of other suitors watched Manning throw during his whirlwind free agency tour in March, but before Monday, reporters had to rely on his receivers for updates on his progress. Manning had refused to talk about it. "Well, you guys got to see him today," tight end Jacob Tamme said. And he looked like the Manning of old. His throws, most of which were intermediate, were strong and on target. His only deep pass was true, too, hitting Matthew Willis in stride before being broken up by cornerback Tracy Porter at the goal line. Watching his pinpoint passes zip around Dove Valley, one never would have guessed he'd been forced to take a sabbatical and go under the scalpel multiple times since his last game, a wild-card playoff loss to the Jets in January of 2011. "Oh, no. Absolutely not," Bailey said. "You know, it's not live, but from what I see right now, the guy hasn't missed a beat." Coach John Fox said Manning's "getting better every day." And so are the Broncos, on account of Manning's presence. "He definitely raises all boats, that's for sure, and that's not just with the young players, (but also) the veterans," Fox said. "We're excited where that is and what's he's done to raise those boats." Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas and the other young receivers have all been refining their route-running so as not to endure Manning's famous wrath. "Well, I think they're on their way," Bailey said. "Obviously, I want to help them as much as possible, try to sharpen their routes up and things like that, but one thing about them is they get open a little bit, they're open a lot to him. That's one thing that's a big difference this year." Manning wouldn't gauge the progress he's made in his two months in Denver, first during private workouts at local high schools and then at the team's training facility. "It's hard to say. I try to get better every day, you know, that's my goal and I really need to use this time," he said. "I do think there's a difference when you are on the field in helmets going up against a defense. Up until now, we hadn't been able to go against a defense. So, this will be great work for me going against Champ Bailey and Von Miller and Elvis (Dumervil) and (Tracy) Porter, Drayton Florence. "We've got three great cover corners to work against. So, until now we've been kind of throwing passes versus air, and you can work on your timing with receivers but it's a great test to go against these corners." Manning is clearly more concerned about ironing out the wrinkles in his new offense than what fans seem to be harping on: his health status. "I've always believed you develop your timing for your passing game in the offseason, I don't think you can just show up in September and expect to be on the same page," Manning said. "So, what a great opportunity for these receivers going against these corners. I mean, if you can't get better going against some of these top cover corners, then it's just not meant to be. So, it's a great challenge for everybody." Monday marked one signpost. Up ahead is putting on the shoulder pads, training camp, taking that first hit in the preseason. "There's no question it's a different mentality for me in these OTAs than it has been in other years because of all the changes," Manning said. "But I look forward to the challenge and I just can't tell you how important these OTAs are. I think they're important for everybody. But when you're a new player, on a new team, certainly coming off an injury, I think they certainly take added importance, and I thought today was an excellent start." Notes: Among the no-shows for the voluntary workout was DT Ty Warren, whom the Broncos are hoping takes a pay cut, and LB D.J. Williams, whose DUI case ended in a mistrial Monday.

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Mike Wallace finally passes conditioning test; allowed to join Ravens at practice

Mike Wallace finally passes conditioning test; allowed to join Ravens at practice

OWINGS MILLS – Ravens wide receiver Mike Wallace was back on the practice field Friday, after passing his conditioning test on the second try.

Wallace missed Thursday’s practice after he failed the test on his first attempt. Joining him on the field Friday was wide receiver Dobson Collins, who also passed the test on his second attempt.

The Ravens hope Wallace will return to the form he had early in his career, when he was a consistent deep threat for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Wallace was a disappointment during stints with the Dolphins and Vikings, but Joe Flacco’s ability to throw the deep ball could help Wallace rejuvenate his career.

RELATED: RAVENS TIGHT END LEAVES CAMP WITH INJURY

In other practice news, cornerback Jerraud Powers missed practice for the second straight day and remained the only player yet to pass the conditioning test. Running back Kenneth Dixon, who sprained his left knee Thursday, also did not practice.  

Ravens coach John Harbaugh was hoping the team would stay disciplined during the first day of practice in pads on Saturday.

“The biggest message when you put the pads on is, ‘You’ve been in pads before,’’’ Harbaugh said. ‘“Don’t overreact. It’s going to be fine.’…I want to get right into executing and keep building on what we’ve done the last two days.

“We’re not going to be out here tackling too much – especially the veteran guys. Let’s just go play football.”

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Report: Nats talking to Pirates about All-Star closer Melancon

Report: Nats talking to Pirates about All-Star closer Melancon

With Aroldis Chapman now in Chicago, the Nationals have moved on to other options in their search for bullpen help.

They have been linked to Andrew Miller of the Yankees and Wade Davis of the Royals.

On Friday, another veteran name emerged on the rumor mill. That would be All-Star closer Mark Melancon of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

RELATED: NATS' TOP TRADE DEADLINE TARGETS

See this tweet from FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal:

Melancon, like Chapman, would be a rental, as his contract expires after this season. He is a three-time All-Star who finished eighth in NL Cy Young voting in 2015.

Melancon has been brilliant for Pittsburgh this year with a 1.51 ERA and 30 saves in 33 chances. He led the majors last season with 51 saves in 53 tries.

What stands out about this rumor, though, is that the Pirates would even be willing to part with Melancon. They are currently just two games out of an NL wild card spot. Teams in their position do not usually become sellers.

Because of that, one would have to imagine the price would be high for Melancon, as Pittsburgh has no urgency to move him. One could argue they have no reason to in the first place.

Regardless, it's good news for the Nats if the Pirates will listen to offers. Melancon would be a rare commodity on the trade market as a closer with experience and a long track record of proven results.

[RELATED: Papelbon's job as Nats closer now a real question]

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Tale of two TE's: Crockett Gillmore injures hamstring, Dennis Pitta has another solid day

Tale of two TE's: Crockett Gillmore injures hamstring, Dennis Pitta has another solid day

OWINGS MILLS – Ravens tight end Crockett Gillmore left practice early Friday with a hamstring injury and was scheduled to have an MRI.

However, it was another strong day for tight end Dennis Pitta, who continued to make strides toward a successful comeback after missing all of the 2015 season with his second major hip injury.

Gillmore led the Ravens’ tight ends last season with 33 catches, 412 yards, and four touchdowns.

He is locked in a battle for playing time with a deep tight end group that also features Dennis Pitta, Ben Watson, and Maxx Williams. If Gillmore misses significant time in camp, there will be more practice reps for others in the tight end group.

The Ravens will practice in pads for the first time on Saturday, which means more contact for Pitta. However, Pitta wasn’t worried about his hip following Friday’s practice.

“My hip feels good, two days in, not worried about it at all,” Pitta said following Friday’s practice. Moving like I want to. Just continue to stay the course. Everything’s on track so far.

“I don’t anticipate tomorrow (Saturday) being a big hurdle for me to clear. It’s just another practice for me. Last year when I was trying to come off PUP, it still didn’t quite feel right…I’m at this point, and feel good, and don’t have any lingering issues or thoughts about it.”

RELATED: OBSERVATIONS FROM DAY 1 OF RAVENS' TRAINING CAMP