Ex-Jet gives peek into Peyton's huddle

January, 30, 2014
Jan 30
3:00
PM ET
JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- When he played for the New York Jets in 2005, tight end Joel Dreessen experienced perhaps the most tumultuous quarterback season in team history. The Jets used five quarterbacks that year -- Chad Pennington, Jay Fiedler, Vinny Testaverde, Brooks Bollinger and Kliff Kingsbury.

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning, Joel Dreessen
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezFormer Jets tight end Joel Dreessen, right, described Broncos teammate Peyton Manning as an extraordinarily demanding and tireless worker.
Now he has one -- Peyton Manning.

Dreessen, a sixth-round pick of the Jets in '05, has gone from a mess to a football messiah. In an inteview Thursday with ESPNNewYork.com, he provided insight into what it's like playing with one of the best quarterbacks in history.

Dreessen described Manning as an extraordinarily demanding and tireless worker who never accepts excuses for failure:

"If you drop a pass, he'll try to settle you and say, 'You have to make that play, you have to make that play,'" said Dreessen, who signed with the Denver Broncos in 2012. "It's not like he's trying to embarrass you or make you feel like crap. There was one time, I dropped a pass. It was in Mile High, a regular-season game. The sun was in my eyes and I couldn't see it and I couldn't bring in the ball. He yelled at me and I said, 'Man, I can't see.' The whole next week at practice, he was giving me grief for the sun being in my eyes. Basically, it was like, 'You have to learn to catch the ball even when the sun is in your eyes.

"When we miss a throw in practice, you can expect to stay after to do it again, even if it's just on air. He wants to walk off the field feeling good about every play.

"On game day, he's pretty serious. He doesn't joke in the huddle or on the sideline. He'll joke around in meetings at times, but I can't think of any game day where he did. Actually, I remember one game where he smiled. It was the opener [Manning's seven-touchdown performance]. I was inactive because I was hurt. He had just thrown touchdown No. 5 against the Ravens and I greeted him on the sideline. I said, 'Five touchdowns?!' He was smiling a little and, under his breath, he said, 'There might be more.' He was right.

"He's a machine. It makes you feel like, if you're in another offense or have another quarterback, you're beating your head against the wall because they can't do what he does as far as getting us in the best play every time. Really, he's like a scientist, except he's 6-foot-5 and he throws the ball amazingly accurate.

"He's going to put it most of the time where you -- and only you -- can catch it. When I first got here, I was frustrated because if I was wide open, most quarterbacks would put the ball right on me. But he's going to keep leading you so you can run underneath it and have more room to run after the catch, keeping it further away from the defender. It's a very catchable ball, a very accurate ball. Even when it's not, he expects you to catch it.

"You definitely want to match his work ethic and preparation. It kind of gets to be a competition: Who can know more about the opponent than Peyton? Who can know the offense better than Peyton? He'll go around the room and quiz guys about their assignments on particular plays. It happens all the time. He makes sure you're on top of it. He really does raise the expectation level at every position. Same with the coaches. He wants information from the coaches. Before he starts his preparation, he wants breakdowns and statistics. It's not just the players he raises up, it's the coaches, too.

"I always come in on Tuesday [our day off] to do some weight lifting. By the time I leave around lunch time, he's coming in early to get a jump-start with the coaches on the game plan. His day off is really not a day off. He truly honors all six months of the season. He takes a few hours off here and there, but I've never seen him take a full day off.

"Honestly, I can say he's not preparing any different for this game than he would a preseason game. I kid you not. Every game is important. To say he's preparing harder for the Super Bowl would be an insult because that would suggest he wasn't preparting as hard as he could for the other games.

"Some day, if I'm telling my grandchildren about Peyton Manning, I'd probably describe how gifted a person he is as far as his intelligence and his technique and his accuracy. I'd describe those things and add to it his work ethic. He's gifted, but he worked at it."

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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