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Tue, 31 Jul 2012 02:30 AM EDT

Peyton Manning’s 1st full practice in pads in 18 months drew rave reviews from his coaches and teammates – and one suggestion that his health isn’t even a problem.

Manning put on an aerial show with Broncos WR Eric Decker and others in the newest milestone to his comeback from a nerve injury that cost him all of last season and led on to his release from the Indianapolis Colts.

Though Manning threw in full pads during his tryouts at Duke University for the Broncos and other suitors during his 1st foray into free agency in March and again at times while working out in Denver, this was his 1st real action in full pads since the Pro Bowl following the 2010 season.

Manning didn’t address the media after, but Coach John Fox stated that he thought Manning’s presentation was excellent.

“The guy comes to work every day whether it’s in that building or on that field, he attacks it like no other,” Fox related.

Although the defenders weren’t allowed to hit the Broncos’ new $96 million man, Manning seemed to have an additional pep in his step in his 1st practice at Dove Valley that wasn’t in shells or shorts.

“It was good,” WR Brandon Stokley said. “It was like the 1st day of school. Football without pads, it isn’t football. So, when you put the pads on, you know you are getting close to the season.” NFL lines

Through a few days of training camp it’s become obvious that Manning’s health is not very much of an issue, while it might be a little time before he’s taking his 1st hit, another big signpost on his return from 4 neck procedures.

“I recounted this when I was working out with him 5 months ago – he looks great,” Stokley recounted. “So, for us now, it’s a little a non-issue of how Peyton’s feeling, how he’s doing. That’s kind of so 3 months ago. Now he’s fine. There is nothing wrong with him.”

Stokley, who played with Manning in Indianapolis from 2003-06, asserted his old buddy looks as good today as he did back then.

“He looks like he’s just gotten better and better,” Stokley said. “He looks normal.”

“He looked good when we 1st got him, to be honest with you,” offensive coordinator Mike McCoy concurred. “I knew some things he had told us before he got here, what he thought about where he was, and he’s gotten better every day. He’s worked incredibly tough to get to the point he’s at right now.”

The next mile marker in Manning’s return will be when he is taking his 1st big hit. Just when that may come is a mystery.

Manning threw valuable few passes in the preseason in Indianapolis, and the Broncos haven’t exposed how much he’ll play in their exhibitions. They open at Chicago on Aug. 9 but Manning, whose fast release and cerebral play does not lead directly to very many hits on the quarterback anyway, might not take his 1st blast from a defender till the season opener against Pittsburgh on Sept. 9, or even later.

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