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Peyton Manning, Broncos refute notion of starter-status demands

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Stephen A. respects Manning for coming to his own defense (1:42)

First Take's Stephen A. Smith reacts to Broncos QB Peyton Manning's comments on a report that he wouldn't want to play backup to QB Brock Osweiler. (1:42)

PITTSBURGH -- Just over two weeks ago, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning expressed his frustration over reports on how rehab on his injured foot was progressing and what his plans were for the rest of this season and even 2016.

On Sunday night, following the Broncos' 34-27 loss to the Pittsburgh, Manning was more emphatic. A report Sunday morning said Manning had told the Broncos he did not want to be the team's backup, whether it was in practice as he works to return to the field or in games.

As he exited the locker room to speak to Steelers owner Dan Rooney, Manning was asked if he had any response to the report.

"It's bull----, and it's insulting," Manning said.

Asked if the comment was for the record, Manning said: "Yes, and I can't say it any plainer than that.''

Broncos executive VP of football operations and general manager John Elway echoed Manning's comments via Twitter.

Broncos coach Gary Kubiak was also asked if Manning had made any declarations about being the team's backup.

"That's sad to hear. I'm going to tell you what: Hell no, no way. OK?" Kubiak said. "He's working his tail off to get back on the field, that's what he's doing.''

Manning has said his left foot injury has bothered him "for a while'' this season. He suffered a tear in the plantar fascia near his left heel in the Broncos' Nov. 8 loss in Indianapolis. He has not played since leaving the team's Nov. 15 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the third quarter.

He returned to practice last week, working in Wednesday's and Thursday's practice -- he even did some scout team work against the Broncos' defense -- but did not practice Friday because of what Kubiak termed "some soreness.''

"Peyton isn't healthy," agent Tom Condon, who has represented Manning for his entire NFL career, said in a statement. "Dr. (Robert) Anderson said if the injury lasts nine months to a year, he should consider surgery.

"During his 18 years in the NFL, he has and continues to be an extraordinary example of excellence as a player and teammate. For (anyone) to suggest that a healthy Peyton Manning wouldn't help his team lacks integrity and fundamental knowledge of Peyton and what he stands for."

Sources within the Broncos organization and locker room and those with knowledge of Manning's state of mind told ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen that Manning is doing exactly what doctors and the team have communicated to him -- rehab the injury.

One source close to Manning told Mortensen the quarterback wants to play again this season if he can get to the point of functioning well enough, either as the starter or if necessary in a backup role.

Manning was ruled out of Sunday's game in Pittsburgh last Tuesday. Kubiak said following Sunday's game he expected Manning to practice at least some in the coming week.

"Expectations are we'll go back (to Denver), see where we are,'' Kubiak said. "We had two good days of practice last week, so we'll start over this week and see where we're at.''

The loss to the Steelers was Brock Osweiler's fifth consecutive start.

Over the last month Manning has had his left foot immobilized -- first, in a cast and then in a walking boot -- for two weeks before restarting is rehab. Last week, Manning added a throwing regimen to his rehab program two weeks ago when he threw in three 30-minute sessions, and last week was his first work on the practice field since Nov. 13.