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Posted at 10:56 AM ET, 07/30/2012

Peyton Manning says he’s not the Peyton Manning of old yet

Peyton Manning is back in football pads, but he estimates that he still isn’t 100 percent. (David Zalubowski / AP)
From a public-relations standpoint, the return of Peyton Manning to the NFL has been a colossal success.

His new team, the Denver Broncos, attracted record numbers of fans at training camp last week. ESPN had unprecedented access for continuous coverage.

But this is Peyton Manning and he’s about more than mere PR. At 36, he’s returning to the NFL after a season off and the No. 2 question (behind what will happen when he takes his first big hit) is: has he fully recovered from four procedures on his neck since the spring of 2010?

(David Zalubowsk / APi)
As he tells it, the nerve in his neck, the one that has limited his arm strength as it slowly recovers, still has not fully regenerated. Peter King of reports that Manning isn’t “babying” his throws, but he isn’t “ripping” them, either. He’s throwing well, but not often going deep. Manning is, as he alway has been, prepared and precise as he works to figure out what his new reality is.

“If I were a Denver fan,” an unnamed former coach of Manning’s told King, “I wouldn't be worried about Peyton physically, because if he can't zing the ball the way he used to, he'll figure out a way. He always does.”

It’s tough to gauge just where Manning is at the moment. Camp has barely begun, he is on a “pitch count” and the Broncos’ offense is adapting to new terminology.

“Where I'll be, percentage-wise, I don't know,” Manning, who’d had nine straight seasons of completing 65 percent or more of his passes, told King. “I don't know if I'll feel the way I've always felt again. Everybody wonders, ‘Can he get back to where he was?’ That bar was set pretty high. Now my goal is to feel as good as I possibly can — right now.”

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By  |  10:56 AM ET, 07/30/2012

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