ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) For the first time in quite a while, Peyton Manning walked into practice healthier than Brock Osweiler.
That, and a wealth of playoff experience, figured into why Osweiler is once again the backup for the Denver Broncos.
Only an hour or so after missing practice and being told he would be holding the clipboard a week from Sunday, Osweiler conceded he has ''a few nicks that are a little more serious than others'' after nearly two months as Denver's starter.
He's trying to take his demotion in stride, though, and vowing to be a team player. Broncos coach Gary Kubiak even harped on how it's going to take the entire roster down the postseason stretch.
Translation: Be on your toes, Osweiler, because you're backing up a 39-year-old QB who's still recovering from a torn left plantar fascia.
''At the end of the day, I just care about this football team winning games,'' Osweiler said.
This has been one crazy season under center for the Broncos.
In Manning's last start, Nov. 15 against Kansas City, the five-time NFL MVP threw four interceptions and then hobbled to the sideline. Osweiler finished up that game and then went 5-2 as a starter.
But he was pulled last weekend after the offense committed five turnovers against San Diego. Manning trotted out in the third quarter to a thunderous ovation, guiding the Broncos to a 27-20 win and securing the top seed in the AFC playoffs.
Had the Broncos held onto the football that day, Osweiler might still be calling the plays inside the huddle.
''Woulda, coulda, shoulda. Who knows?'' said Osweiler, who threw for 1,967 yards this season with 10 TDs and six interceptions. ''At the end of the day, facts are facts and I didn't finish the game. Peyton is going to start in the playoffs. And that's something I support 100 percent.
''We're all in everyone's corner. We all support each other.''
Although Manning provided a spark last weekend, he hasn't exactly been vintage Manning this season. He's thrown nine touchdown passes and 17 interceptions.
Should Manning struggle, the leash could be short.
''We're just happy no matter who's at the helm,'' running back C.J. Anderson said. ''They're going to lead us where we need to go.''
Osweiler can become a free agent this offseason and the Broncos may be closely watching how he handles his demotion.
''Obviously, there are no discussions right now about what's happening in the offseason and those kinds of things, but we think the world of him,'' Kubiak said. ''He's played extremely well in some tough situations. He's a very tough kid.''
Just how tough, Kubiak wouldn't let on. Osweiler has been dealing with aches in his left elbow, left shoulder and rib cage. Asked about Osweiler's health after he sat out practice Thursday, Kubiak sidestepped the topic: ''I don't have to reveal an injury report today, so I'm not going to do that. We have a lot of guys nicked up coming out of the football game.''
Osweiler downplayed his bumps and bruises as well.
''I feel OK. Kind of like everybody else in this locker room right now, a little bit banged up,'' Osweiler said. ''Come next Sunday, I'll be ready to roll.''
When first informed of Kubiak's decision to go with Manning, Osweiler acknowledged he was disappointed. He wants to run this team after stepping in for Manning and leading the Broncos to their fifth straight AFC West title.
But he also understands Kubiak's perspective. Manning does have the most postseason appearances among QBs (15), thrown for the most yards (6,800) and has a record nine 300-yard passing games.
''I stand behind Peyton. I stand behind coach. I stand behind this team,'' Osweiler said. ''You're going to see the same exact guy out of me as you've seen the whole season.''
Should he be needed, he'll be ready. Has been since being drafted in the second round out of Arizona State in 2012.
''If anybody knows that you need to be prepared regardless of the situation, that's me,'' Osweiler said. ''I've lived that for three-and-a-half years.''
... I will prepare like I was the starter.''
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