ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In the Denver Broncos' locker room, much like the real estate market, it can be all about location, location, location.
But the best spots, as well as the privilege of two lockers, side-by-side, to be used by one player, are reserved only for the elite of the elite. Reserved for players with the on-field chops and off-field leadership to have earned that kind of status.
Reserved for a player like quarterback Peyton Manning.
Broncos tight end Jacob Tamme once joked Manning “could really have a whole wing,’’ but Manning’s standing in his own locker room may be the only place where it is elevated from his standing in the league.
As part of a survey of over 320 players league-wide from ESPN.com’s NFL Nation reporters this season, the question was asked “Which player do you respect the most?’’
Manning was the top choice with 86 players (27 percent) choosing the future Hall of Famer. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson were tied for second with 24 votes each.
In the Broncos' world, Manning, who just earned his 13th Pro Bowl selection and is poised for his fifth MVP award, and cornerback Champ Bailey, with 12 career Pro Bowl selections, are the double-locker guys. They set the tone and every single Broncos player who participated in the survey selected either Manning or Bailey, even when they were told the question was for any player in the league.
“I think in watching him up close, working with him every day, side by side, you really have an appreciation for what kind of player Peyton is," said offensive coordinator Adam Gase. “The way he prepares, the way he practices, just how he conducts himself. The guy has done so much and he still prepares like he’s trying to make the team, still looks to make himself better every day. If you don’t respect that is a you problem.''
Many Broncos players tell the story of when head coach John Fox had Broncos Ring of Famer Rod Smith speak at a team meeting not long after Manning had signed with the Broncos. People had already seen Manning eat his meals in his countless hours at this facility as he learned a new offense, a new team and Smith looked over the room and then settled his eyes on Manning and asked “have you ever been the only one in the building?"
Manning said “yes," and Smith then looked at the other players with an expression those on hand say was essentially “see?"
The Broncos see all right. Every day.