Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Peyton matching wits with old pal Shanahan today

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DENVER -- Peyton Manning and Mike Shanahan worked for a week together at the Pro Bowl in 2006, talking football and getting ready for an exhibition very few actually look forward to playing in or coaching.

A meaningless game. But hardly a meaningless encounter.

In many ways, the week they spent together in Honolulu was the first in a chain of events that led to the end of Shanahan's stay and Manning's eventual arrival in Denver.

They'll meet again today when Shanahan brings the Washington Redskins (2-4) to Denver (6-1) to face the franchise he led to two Super Bowl victories in the late 1990s.

"He's as good as it gets," Shanahan said. "He understands the game inside and out. He's one of the guys that comes along about once every 20, 30, 40 years. They don't happen very often."

After seeing Manning's focus and passion up-close during Pro Bowl week nearly eight years ago, Shanahan returned to Denver and started making big changes. He drafted Jay Cutler and set the stage for saying goodbye to Jake Plummer, a seat-of-the-pants quarterback with whom Shanahan never saw things eye to eye.

Cutler went 17-20 as a starter -- and that spate of mediocrity marked the end of Shanahan's 14 seasons as Broncos head coach and the start of a tumultuous time in Denver.

When Manning was choosing a team during his 2012 free agency, he met with Shanahan and considered the Redskins. But that would've put him in the same division with his brother, Eli. The discussion was rendered pointless when Washington traded for the second spot in the draft knowing Robert Griffin III or Andrew Luck would be available.

The Redskins took Griffin.

The Broncos signed Manning.

And as things turned out, Shanahan and Manning struck up a good enough friendship that Shanahan ended up letting Manning stay at his house while the quarterback was shopping the Denver real estate market.

PEYTON'S ANKLE: Manning took a beating last week in Denver's first loss of the season, 39-33 to the Colts. As a result, he missed his first regular-season practice as a Bronco, sitting out Wednesday's session with a tweaked ankle. As is the case with all things Manning, there has been a lot of conjecture about when, exactly, he got hurt and how much it affected him. Best guess: When Robert Mathis sacked him from the blind side, stripping the ball and scoring a safety in the second quarter.

The Broncos didn't score on their next six drives.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 27, 2013 B12

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