Broncos consider Peyton Manning's return to practice field

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- For the first time since Brock Osweiler moved into the starting lineup a month ago, Denver Broncos coach Gary Kubiak opened the week without naming his starting quarterback.

Kubiak said Monday afternoon "nothing has changed." But because he had not met with the quarterbacks yet, he was not prepared to say if Peyton Manning would return to practice this week or whether Osweiler would be the starter Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. On the previous four Mondays, Kubiak stepped to the podium after meeting with the team and said Osweiler would start and then specified what Manning’s practice plan would be for the coming week.

Early Monday afternoon, Kubiak said he had not met with Manning and planned to do that later in the day.

“I’ve got to see where he’s at, we’ve got to talk through our situation and see where’s he at,’’ Kubiak said. “ … We went through a good week last week, gave him a weekend off, so we’ll see where he’s at. We’ll have a plan in place by the time we get to Wednesday.’’

Later, on an appearance with the team's flagship radio station (KOA 850-AM), Kubiak offered a clearer answer. He said the decision will be dependent on how much, if at all, Manning participates in practice.

“Obviously everybody wants an answer every Monday at one o’clock. I had just gotten out of a team meeting, we’re doing some Pro Bowl voting (Monday) and what I said was, as of (Monday) nothing has changed,'' Kubiak said in response to a question from the Broncos' play-by-play man, Dave Logan. "The question is over the next two days, I’m getting together with Peyton and with (head trainer Steve Antonopulos) and we’re going to make a decision on how we proceed this week. Does that mean do we go to the practice field? Do we go any further? I don’t know, we’re going to make that decision. That’s the way I answered the question and nothing’s changed.’’

Manning has not played because of a torn plantar fascia in his left foot since being removed from the Broncos’ Nov. 15 loss against the Kansas City Chiefs. He said after that game he may have made a mistake in gauging his readiness to play and has not practiced with the team since.

Manning has progressed in his rehab since having the injured foot immobilized, first in a cast and then a walking boot, for a total of two weeks. He restarted his rehab with his foot out of the walking boot on Dec. 5 and added a throwing regimen to his program last week. Manning was on the sideline for Sunday’s 15-12 loss to the Oakland Raiders with a playsheet in hand and an earpiece so he could listen to the play calls.

On Monday, before his radio appearance Kubiak was asked if Manning would soon be preparing to play.

“That’s the next step, that he’s coming back to practice and if you’re coming back to practice then you’re working toward getting back on the field playing. Let me see where we’re at, I know how we ended last week, and I know what I’ve been doing since five o’clock this morning. I haven’t talked to anybody, I’ve been doing a lot of evaluation and those type of things. We’ll get started on all those other type of things this afternoon.’’

Kubiak did say if the Broncos were practicing Monday, “absolutely nothing has changed" in terms of Osweiler’s status as a starter. The Broncos are 3-1 in Osweiler’s four starts and 10-3 overall with a two-game lead in the AFC West.

Lost in the Broncos’ struggles on offense against the Raiders was Osweiler did have his first career 300-yard passing game with 308 yards on 35-of-51 passing. He was sacked five times -- all by Khalil Mack -- and has been sacked 17 times in just over 17 quarters.

Manning said last week he had been bothered with plantar fasciitis for “some time’’ this season, but that he suffered the tear in the Broncos’ Nov. 8 loss in Indianapolis.

“Nothing has changed until I sit down and see exactly where Peyton’s at, where we’re moving this week,’’ Kubiak said.