ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Peyton Manning wants to clear up a couple of things about his recent visit to Tuscaloosa, Ala., that raised eyebrows at NFL headquarters and the hackles of some Tennessee fans.
The five-time MVP said he’s always been driven to improve, a quality that’s even more essential at age 38, and that’s why he met with Alabama coach Nick Saban a couple of weeks ago.
Saban shared defensive tips with Manning, who gave him pointers on the hurry-up offense that has befuddled the Crimson Tide.
Saban said Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase also visited his staff that week. NFL rules prohibit players and their coaches from meeting before the start of offseason workout programs, and that’s why the NFL said it would look into the matter.
Following the Broncos’ first organized workout Monday, however, Manning insisted that he and Gase didn’t break any rules because they didn’t meet with each other in Tuscaloosa.
“Yeah, that didn’t happen. We know what the rules were. Like I said, I was there on an independent project, and Adam was as well,” Manning said.
Saban has also said that Manning and Gase didn’t meet with his coaches at the same time.
Gase and Saban go way back: Gase got his start in coaching under Saban in the 1990s at Michigan State and followed him to LSU as a graduate assistant.
As for fans from the quarterback’s alma mater who might be upset that he met with a rival coach from another SEC team, Manning said he still bleeds orange.
“Obviously, I have been to Tennessee doing the same thing for the past 16 years. I’ll do that, going to make it 17 years in a row, going back to Knoxville. Hopefully that covers me as far as being loyal to my university,” Manning said. “Most of the other places, I go just one time. So I’ve got 17 years at one place, so I think it’s pretty clear where my loyalties lie.
“The projects I did this year were to help the Denver Broncos and to help me. That still is what my job is, to make myself a better player.”
The NFL rule prohibiting players and coaches from meeting before the start of the voluntary offseason workouts, the first two weeks of which are limited to strength and conditioning work and rehabilitation, were installed with the latest collective bargaining agreement a few years ago.
It’s designed to prevent players from feeling pressured to meet with coaching staffs during what’s supposed to be their free time in the offseason. Players and coaches often get together in casual settings and NFL coaches often meet with college coaches.
Manning’s appetite for improvement is what led to his trip this offseason to Alabama. He also visited Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
“There’s different things that I’ve done throughout my career in the offseason that I’ve sought out someone to talk to, something to study to try to make myself a better quarterback,” he said. “I believe in this league you either get better or you get worse — you don’t stay the same. I know that has gotten a lot of attention, but that is something I’ve done throughout my career.
“I certainly know the rules, but I know there’s no rule that says a player can’t get better — at least I haven’t read that one. That’s what I was trying to do and I believe that is important, especially as you get older, in the offseason to try to seek out some things to try to make yourself a better player.”
Seeing the league’s only five-time MVP trying to improve impressed new defensive end DeMarcus Ware, who was lured to Denver by a three-year, $30 million offer from general manager John Elway and the chance to play with Manning, who’s intent on getting back to the Super Bowl this season following the Broncos’ 43-8 loss to Seattle in February.
“Sometimes it doesn’t matter about accolades, it doesn’t matter if you were MVP or not, it’s what can I do to really get better for next season?” Ware said. “Peyton’s one of those types of guys that puts in that effort, not just on the field but off the field, trying to figure out, ‘What can I do to get better?’ Because he has a bad taste in his mouth from the last season and he doesn’t want it to happen again.”
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