DENVER (WISH/AP) - Superstar NFL quarterback Peyton Manning took the podium Tuesday as the leader of a new team, with a new jersey, but with the same number - 18. And that's a fact he felt honored by, he said, as he started a "the next chapter" of his NFL career.
The Denver Broncos had retired the jersey number 18 in honor of Frank Tripucka, the franchise's first quarterback. But Manning said at Tripucka's request, the number has been un-retired, and Manning will continue to wear the number he's held his entire NFL career, since being taken in the NFL draft by the Indianapolis Colts in 1998.
After parting ways with the Colts earlier this month in a tearful press conference, Manning expressed a hopeful outlook in his first news conference as quarterback for the Denver Broncos.
“It’s up to me and the people here around me to make this the right decision,” he said, noting he was looking forward, not back.
He said he looked forward to getting back to work, saying the sooner he got back to the business of football, the easier the transition would be.
He noted, though, that he was a quarterback, and that he was leaving it to team administrators to build the best team up around him.
“I am not going to be involved in personnel decisions," he said. "… I am here simply to be a teammate.”
But a theme throughout Tuesday's news conference was the drive to win another Super Bowl. Manning said he was committed to doing everything he could to make that happen, and expressed appreciation for the competitive nature of Hall of Fame quarterback Jon Elway, once the Broncos' star quarterback, now the franchise's vice president.
Elway gave the nod to the franchise's drive to win another championship, but he went even further with his ambitions.
“My goal is to make Peyton Manning the best quarterback that ever played the game,” he said, noting Manning was well on his way to that mark.
Elway said he was confident Manning had improved the team already, just by who he is and what he's done already.
The deal that landed the league's most sought-after free agent - a five-year, $96 million dollar contract - could also mark the end of quarterback Tim Tebow's days in Denver — a bold move, for sure, but one Elway was more than willing to take.
"Plan B?" he said. "I don't have a Plan B. We're going with Plan A."
Elway noted no decision had been made.
"Tim is a great football player, but with the opportunity that presented itself here, we had to take advantage of that."
He said no decision has been made on Tebow's future, but he seemed to be preparing the quarterback's fans to say goodbye.
"That's the tough part of this business," Elway said.
Elway said he didn't see a downside to bringing Manning aboard, even with his multiple neck surgeries and season off last year.
"I don't consider it much of a risk, knowing Peyton Manning," Elway said. "I asked him, 'Is there any doubt in your mind that you can't get back to the Peyton Manning we know of?' And he said, 'There's no doubt in my mind.'"
One other factor in Manning's decision to play outdoors in the Mile High City: The nearly $40 million in salary cap room the Broncos have, putting them in the mix for quality free agents, possibly including Manning's former teammates Jeff Saturday and Dallas Clark.
Anything to get a championship or two in the few years he's got left.
"I realize I don't have 14 years left, by any means," Manning said. "This isn't something where I'm just building a foundation to do something in two years or three years. This is a 'now' situation. We're going to do whatever we can to win right now. That's all I'm thinking about right now."
Pat Bowlen, Broncos owner, president and CEO, declared it was a great day for the organization, the city and the fans.
"Peyton gives us the chance to win another world championship," he said.