Peyton Manning says he's 'certainly better' as neck recovery continues

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Peyton Manning seemed fine in 2012 as he tore apart defenses despite a neck injury that cost him the 2011 season. He says he wasn't, and that there's better play in his future.

Umm, maybe NFL defenses should be scared. Peyton Manning feels he wasn't playing up to his potential in 2012, despite being one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the league and leading the Denver Broncos to an AFC West title.

Manning spoke at Tennessee, his alma mater, on Friday, talking about how he's adjusted in the wake of a neck injury that cost him the 2011 season. He said some things aren't back, citing "certain challenges" caused by the injury, but said that some things that weren't up to snuff in 2012 might be improved in the future:

"Obviously, I still can perform kind of status quo, but I still have hopes and (am) determined to try to seek some more improvement. But, yeah, I'm certainly better than I was last year. But I'm still not quite where I was before I was injured."

That's not good news for anybody who has to go up against Manning. He threw for 4,659 yards and 37 touchdowns -- sixth and third in the league -- as the Broncos won 13 games. It's tough to imagine how Manning can improve on that at 37 years old in 2013, but now he has Wes Welker, arguably the league's best possession receiver, and someone who should tear apart opponents out of the seam. Manning's always been deadly accurate, and it was refreshing to see that skill return after an unfortunate injury. If he can retain that -- and somehow manage to improve on it -- it's tough to see the Broncos not repeating as division champs and maybe contending for some more serious hardware.

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