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Originally published October 15, 2013 at 7:47 PM | Page modified October 15, 2013 at 7:55 PM

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Denver’s Peyton Manning is a thinking man’s quarterback

Denver quarterback Peyton Manning returns to Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday a better player than the one who left Indianapolis teary-eyed in 2012 after the Colts let him go in favor of Andrew Luck.

The Associated Press and The Hartford Courant

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Two years removed from the neck troubles that weakened his right arm but strengthened his resolve, Denver’s Peyton Manning is off to the best start by a quarterback in league history.

He returns to Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday a better player than the one who left Indianapolis teary-eyed in 2012 after the Colts let him go in favor of Andrew Luck.

Manning has four terrific targets to go with the skill, intellect, work ethic and determination he has always had.

With Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Julius Thomas making the catches, the Broncos (6-0) are averaging 42 points a game. Manning has thrown for a record 22 touchdowns in the first six weeks, and Knowshon Moreno is keeping defenses honest with a league-leading seven TD runs.

Manning loves dissecting defenses and poring over game video but doesn’t enjoy digging deep into his own psyche to decipher what makes him tick.

Listen closely to some of his words, though:

“I love practicing every day.”

“I’m still learning.”

This from the four-time NFL most valuable player who narrowly missed out on a fifth MVP honor last season.

Most quarterbacks blowing out 37 candles on their birthday cake tire of the tedium of meetings, practices and workouts. They start daydreaming about life after football.

Not Manning.

“Everybody enjoys playing in an NFL football game, but I still enjoy the preparation, the work ... and being effective,” Manning said.

The beauty of Peyton Manning is his beautiful mind.

NBC football analyst Cris Collinsworth said the line he hears most from opponents is “he’s playing chess when most of us are playing checkers.”

“I think that’s really his number-one asset,” added Tony Dungy, Collinsworth’s NBC colleague and Manning’s former coach. “He is so smart. He’s got such a great memory, such great recall.”

Broncos coach John Fox leaves the video review to his captains on the day after victories while coaches prepare for the next opponent.

“He basically is running the meeting,” Demaryius Thomas said of Manning. “You go over the film and he says, ‘Everybody, I want you to say what you messed up on. Don’t be ashamed.’ ”


• The fiancée of Aaron Hernandez was intentionally vague and untruthful when she testified before the grand jury investigating the former New England tight end charged with murder, prosecutors said during Shayanna Jenkins’ first appearance as a defendant in Fall River (Mass.) Superior Court.

Jenkins was arraigned on a single count of perjury, pleaded not guilty and was released.

Assistant District Attorney Patrick Bomberg said Jenkins during her testimony denied asking maids who cleaned the home she shared with Hernandez to sign nondisclosure agreements after semipro player Odin Lloyd’s June 17 death. The maids later testified before the grand jury that Jenkins did ask them to sign documents — and copies of the agreements were submitted as evidence, Bomberg said.

• Green Bay receiver Randall Cobb will be out for at least two months with a knee injury. The Packers placed the 23-year-old Cobb on injured reserve/designated for return, which requires a player to miss at least eight games.

• Buffalo released starting left guard Colin Brown, 28, in a move that opens the door for Doug Legursky, 27.

• Receiver-return man Josh Cribbs, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, signed with the New York Jets.

Cribbs, 30, was cut by Oakland during the exhibition season.

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