Peyton Manning set to return to game action

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Peyton Manning set to return to game action

From Comcast SportsNet

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) -- Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos are treating their visit to Chicago on Thursday night just like any other preseason opener.

Only, it isn't.

This marks the four-time MVP's first game of any sort since Jan. 30, 2011, when he went 2-for-5 for 12 yards and an interception in the AFC's 55-41 loss to the NFC in the Pro Bowl.

"I think he's anxious to get in there, just like all of our starters," coach John Fox said Tuesday.

Anybody who wants to see Manning's first game in 18 months had better tune in early because he won't have much more than a cameo appearance at Soldier Field.

"Well, we don't get into how much we're going to do but we'll approach it much like any first preseason games," Fox said. "Our first unit will go the first quarter -- about -- and the seconds will go the second and third quarters, and the third will finish out the fourth quarter."

That's fine with Manning.

"We'd like to get a drive or two going," Manning said. "I've always said you love to get a bit of everything in the preseason if you can. You love to get some short-yardage work, some third-down conversions, you'd love to get some red zone, goal line. In all four games, if you can get all the situations that we work on out here, that would be ideal.

"So, however long we play, or whatever Coach Fox wants to do, we're good with. We just need to play well when we're out there."

Manning missed all of last season with a nerve injury in his neck that weakened his throwing arm and led to his tearful release from the Indianapolis Colts that set off the biggest free agent frenzy in NFL history. He landed in Denver and hasn't looked back.

Throughout offseason workouts, minicamp and training camp with the Broncos (No. 10 in the AP Pro32), Manning has had plenty of zip on his passes and he's been as accurate and cerebral as ever.

Even Tuesday, when he had his share of incompletions against an ever-improving, first-string defense, Manning was sharp in his decisions.

"I wouldn't say that," Manning retorted when asked if it was a frustrating day at practice. "Every day, you're trying to get better. Certainly, there's always some things you can improve on."

Although his fused neck is actually stronger than it was pre-surgery, the next big mile marker in Manning's comeback is bouncing back from that first big hit.

Manning said he has no doubt he is ready to absorb it, although the Broncos aren't exactly eager to get that blast behind them.

"Well, you never want to see your guy the one being hit regardless of position," Fox said. "But it's all part of the game. I think he's definitely preparing himself, and we'll see how it goes Thursday night."

Manning has spent the last five months learning his new teammates and working on timing with his new targets, but he is eager to see who steps up in the preseason.

"The lights have not been on yet," Manning said. "We've had practices, we had the scrimmage Saturday, which was a game-like atmosphere, but going against a different opponent on Thursday" will provide a better gauge.

"So it's serious business out there on Thursday. There's jobs being competed for, there's jobs that people are trying to keep. That's where all of us have something to play for," he added. "Sure, you want to win the game, but everybody's competing, trying to do their jobs well."

Notes: DT Ty Warren didn't finish practice because of a stomach problem. ... Several of DT Ben Garland's defensive teammates gave him two replacement silver sabers he received upon graduating from the Air Force Academy, along with a Falcons football helmet. The originals were lost in the wildfire that destroyed his grandparents' home in Colorado Springs this summer. ... RB Knowshon Moreno made a big blunder when he ran out of bounds during a two-minute drill in which Denver's offense was trying to protect a late lead. "That's why you practice it," Fox said. "I'd rather that happen now in a practice situation vs. in a game when it counts." ... With Manning the marquee attraction, the Broncos have drawn 74,209 fans to camp. With five public practices remaining, they could double their old record of 45,124 set last year.

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Wizards do the little things right in ugly win over Nuggets

Wizards do the little things right in ugly win over Nuggets

Wins in the NBA can come in many different forms and what transpired at the Verizon Center on Thursday night was by no means pretty. The scoreboard didn't even work for the first few minutes and when it came back to life the Wizards trailed the Nuggets 17-5.

By the end of the first the Wizards were shooting 36.4 percent and had eight turnovers. In the fourth quarter, they managed just 17 points and only scored four in the final 3:47 of play. 

Offense was not the reason why they won this one, a 92-85 final score. No, this one was paved by defense - they held the Nuggets to 33 points in the second half and 12 in the fourth - and hustle plays in key moments that helped the Wizards seal their seventh win of the season.

The Wizards forced 29 Nuggets turnovers and held them to 11-of-35 shooting - including 1-for-18 from three - in the second half. Denver may have started out hot, but it didn't last long.

"I think we just played harder in the second half, that's the reason we came out with a win," said John Wall, who lamented his teammates effort after Tuesday night's loss to the Magic.

“It was not the prettiest game but we fought, we battled, we battled, we stayed in front of our men; we did a good job of guarding. We made them miss a lot of shots," head coach Scott Brooks said.

That extra effort included a big block by Marcin Gortat with 4:24 remaining in the fourth quarter. With Will Barton going up on the left side of the hoop after a steal, Gortat adjusted while backpedaling to reject him at the rim. 

It kept the Wizards up 85-83 at the time and Brooks raved about it afterwards.

"I thought Marcin [Gortat] struggled most of the night but he had a huge block. That's what you have to do. You can't worry about you last play. You have to worry about helping the next player and help your teammates out," Brooks said.

With 46 seconds remaining, Bradley Beal pulled off a play that went a long way towards clinching the win. On a Jameer Nelson missed three-pointer, Beal dove to a full-stretch to bring in the rebound. He fell to the ground and called timeout right in front of the Wizards' bench as his teammates leapt out of their seats to rejoice.

It was a loose ball that Beal made sure he was determined to get.

“It’s whatever it takes to get a win, even if it’s diving on the floor," Beal said. "They were telling me to try out for the Redskins because I laid out and caught it, got possession, two feet in, tucked and rolled. But we need plays like that to win games, and whatever it takes at this point.”

"Those are winning plays. That's what we needed all game and that's what we need every game, winning plays late like that. That just showed that guys really care about winning," forward Markieff Morris said. "When you've got one of your best players giving everything he's got to win, it has to send a jolt [to teammates]. If it doesn't, then something is wrong."

The Wizards have talked plenty this season about controlling what they can control. When they don't have it on offense, make sure the effort is there on the defensive end and more often than not they will be in games with a chance to win. On Thursday, the proof was on display.

[RELATED: Brooks on Wizards' effort following Wall's comments]

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League sources: Wizards' Ian Mahinmi to have 2nd look at right knee

League sources: Wizards' Ian Mahinmi to have 2nd look at right knee

Ian Mahinmi, who has appeared in just one game for the Wizards this season because of injuries to both knees, will get another MRI on his right one Friday, league sources tell CSNmidatlantic.com.

Mahinmi was the Wizards' most expensive offseason acquistion this summer and set to back up Marcin Gortat in the middle. However, he required surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left knee before the season tipped and then developed soreness -- believed to be tendinitis, league sources told CSN -- in the right knee after playing just 14 minutes vs. the San Antonio Spurs on Nov. 26. Mahinmi signed a four-year deal worth almost $64 million.

As a result, Gortat, at 32 the oldest on the roster, has had to play a career-high 35.4 minutes per game for Washington. Daniel Ochefu, a rookie who signed as a free agent, hasn't been deemed ready by coach Scott Brooks to log any meaningful minutes. 

Mahinmi has yet to go through a series of full practices to get back on the court, though he has gone partial and done individual work.

If Mahinmi's knee turns out to be more serious than expected, that would put the Wizards (8-13) in a tough spot as they try to dig out of this hole with 61 games left in the regular season.

[RELATED: Takeways from Wizards' scrappy win over Nuggets]