- Jeff Legwold, ESPN Staff Writer
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Many of the prime-time players who had a role in Super Bowl XLVIII this past February won't make more than a cameo in Thursday night's preseason opener for the Denver Broncos.
There is a chance, though, that the opening few plays of Thursday's game with the Seattle Seahawks could offer a brief, yet intense batch of plays, all these months after the Seahawks' 35-point win over the Broncos.
"We won't need any more speeches," defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. "They are the champs, and they get the last word. But ultimately our goal is to get back to the big show and win it this time. I think that playing them in the preseason and the regular season will show if we're ready or not to take that next step. I'm just looking forward to it."
"Even though it's a preseason game, you know it's going to be physical," Broncos safety T.J. Ward said. "We're looking to be physical. You know they're already physical. It's going to be a head-knocker. The first preseason game, regardless, we're both looking to set the tone for the rest of the season."
Backups will account for most of whatever becomes of Thursday night's affair at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. And given the two teams will face each other, for real, in the third week of the regular season, it's unlikely either of them decides to show much to the other.
But given this is the Broncos' first opponent since the Super Bowl blowout, it does offer something to consider. Especially since some in the league quietly agree with what Bobby Wagner said on ESPN -- that the Broncos were intimidated by the Seahawks' defense in the title game.
Wagner even used the word "timid." The Broncos have been answering questions about how they lost the Super Bowl and about the way in which they lost it every day since it happened. Even as recently as after Saturday's scrimmage at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, quarterback Peyton Manning was asked about the Seahawks, as well as the Super Bowl loss, and if that loss motivates them in the season to come.
"I think the entire team has been motivated," Manning said at his deflecting best. "We're trying to get better, trying to be a better team than we were last year but that started back in April though when we got back on the offseason program. We have worked hard every day and as a veteran player, I certainly appreciate that.”
Broncos coach John Fox has tried to turn down the hype burner a bit on the whole thing when he offered this weekend: "It's the preseason, not a lot of people remember the preseason."
And it should be noted Manning played all of seven snaps in last year's preseason opener -- in San Francisco -- and he was 2-of-4 passing for 13 yards. This won't be a long night for anybody's regulars, but there should be some quality entertainment on the smattering of snaps the starters do play on both sides.
And given the preseason meeting and the regular-season meeting with the Seahawks are just more than six weeks apart on the football calendar, and the fact all of the rugged NFC West teams are on the Broncos' schedule this season, the Broncos' on-field response to the Super Bowl loss figures to be a topic for much of the season.
"Of course it means something," said wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who has been indoctrinated since his arrival in free agency this past March. "That's a defense that beat us in the Super Bowl -- and I'm going to say ‘us' because now I'm a Denver Bronco -- but it's one that beat us in the Super Bowl. So we've got to go out, we've got to make a statement. There are a lot of guys who are hungry and a lot of guys that are excited that we do have the Seattle Seahawks the first preseason game and in the regular season."