There are certain unmistakable signs of spring.
▪ Seeing the first robin of the season.
▪ Hearing the satisfying thwack of a wooden bat on a baseball in Durham Bulls Athletic Park or Five County Stadium.
▪ Watching the Manning brothers fill the air with footballs at Duke University.
That last harbinger of spring has been a recent addition, appearing over the past four years. Since 2012 Peyton Manning, the All-Pro quarterback of the Denver Broncos, has visited Duke in the spring to seek out the counsel of his former coach, quarterback whisperer David Cutcliffe, the Duke head coach for the past seven seasons.
Cutcliffe was Manning’s quarterback coach at Tennessee and later was the head coach at Mississippi when Eli Manning, Peyton’s younger brother, played there. Eli has joined Peyton the past three years at Camp Manning, and so have many of their Broncos and Giants receivers who might benefit from some extra time together.
Camp Manning originated when Peyton was rehabbing from a neck injury that prompted the Indianapolis Colts to let him leave as a free agent before the 2012 season. After missing the entire 2011 season, Manning went to Cutcliffe for some individual work to return to form.
Now their spring reunions serve to fine-tune elements of the quarterback’s mechanics. They afford the Mannings and their receivers an opportunity to work together, away from the critical eyes of media or coaching staffs and prepare for their teams’ spring workouts. The sessions have been especially beneficial for receivers new to the Mannings’ teams.
According to a report on denverbroncos.com, Peyton Manning was joined in Durham last Thursday by wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders, Andre Caldwell and Cody Latimer, tight ends Owen Daniels and Virgil Green, and defensive end Kenny Anunike, a former Duke standout.
The workouts take on added importance this year because the Broncos have a new head coach in Gary Kubiak, the former Houston Texans boss. Daniels has played for Kubiak for eight years and apparently is introducing Manning to a new playbook.
One Broncos receiver conspicuous in his absence – sort of – was Demaryius Thomas, who will work out on his own until he signs a new long-term contract with the Broncos. Denver put the franchise tag on Thomas during the offseason to keep him off the free-agent market.
Although Thomas was not present at Duke, Peyton Manning apparently poked some fun at his teammate by photoshopping Thomas into the group photo of Broncos receivers taken in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The photo showed up on social media after being posted by Sanders. Eli Manning posed for a similar photo with Giants receivers Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle. The photo showed up on Cruz’s Instagram account.
Cruz is rehabbing a torn Patellar tendon suffered in Week 5 last season and remains uncertain for the start of this season.