You don’t need to justify your excitement about Peyton Manning, Denver. It’s OK. Go crazy, and break Broncos training camp attendance records (as you already have), and purchase your bright orange Manning jerseys to form a united army of Manning marchers (as you already have).

Do it knowing this, though, and it’s something we’ve been repeating for months now because the importance of perspective when we’re trying to forecast Manning’s 2012 season can’t be overstated. Manning will probably be good. No, he’ll probably be very good, and he may even be great. But for the Manning of old, great wasn’t sufficient. Not even close, and the new Manning may never be that Manning again. Not after four neck surgeries, and not after sitting out for over a year.

Again, this shouldn’t be a new thought or development, but now it’s becoming very real with training camp underway for the entire league, and with the days ticking down to the beginning of preseason play. Manning is now going about the business of preparing for the rigors of an NFL season just like the rest of his quarterback peers, and as he’s doing that he’s also confirming the beliefs that we’ve had all offseason.

This will be a very different year, one in which greatness will have to be sufficient for Manning, and being elite again may not quite be attainable. He spoke to Sports Illustrated’s Peter King and essentially confirmed those feelings.

“Where I’ll be, percentage-wise, I don’t know,” Manning told me. “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.”

Reports from training camp regarding Manning’s progress and specifically his arm strength have mostly been rosy. But getting an accurate gauge is difficult until he faces some consistent pressure. ESPN’s Josina Anderson said that right now although his arm is coming along, some context is needed with those glowing reports.

“Manning has looked better than most people believed he would so far. But here is a little bit of context: Yes, he’s looked good at the line of scrimmage. His balls have had zip. And the majority of them have been caught. But most of those balls have been short and intermediate, with only a handful of them long.”

For the downfield speed of Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker to be utilized properly, Manning’s deep ball needs to show much more life.

And it will…maybe. But right now in the final days of July–50 days before the Broncos play their first game that matters–there’s still work to be done.

And now the links part of the links post…

  • The Dolphins had two wide receivers miss practice this morning with possible injuries that likely aren’t serious. The seriousness isn’t necessarily the point here though. The receivers in question are Clyde Gates and Davone Bess, and now whether they miss a day or a week, Ryan Tannehill is stuck relying more heavily on Chad Johnson to not be an aging, inconsistent mess while he’s in his opening days of training camp and trying to develop as a rookie QB. So already we have a fine demonstration of the frailties of the Dolphins’ wide receiver depth chart. [Armando Salguero]
  • Speaking of which, let’s take a moment to catch up on a few items you may have missed over the weekend. Like, say, the fact that Tannehill is permitted to participate in Dolphins practice because he signed a four-year contract Saturday worth $12.69 million. [Palm Beach Post]
  • More importantly, Tannehill’s signing means his wife Lauren can now attend practice, and she can laugh and smile with the other girlfriends and wives in the stands while also giving us an excuse to discuss the fact that a quarterback has tapped into the secretly-guarded underbelly of hot blondes. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel]
  • For the vast GLS female audience, Tim Tebow ran around in the rain without a shirt on Saturday morning, and the Internet thought that was really cool. [New York Daily News]
  • Chris Long became very rich yesterday, signing a four-year contract extension worth $10.31 million. [CBS Sports]
  • Back to scary training camp injury news that will surely cause unnecessary panic in July. Greg Jennings is sitting out practice again today with an elbow injury. [Tom Silverstein]
  • And some injury news that’s legitimately scary even if it’s being called mild: Andre Johnson will be out at least a week with a groin strain. He’s so talented, yet so incredibly brittle. Oh, and he’s 31, and he’s missed 12 games over the past two years. Yeah, this isn’t just your normal late July strain. [Houston Chronicle]
  • In other concerning yet woefully predictable injury news, Michael Crabtree is missing time with another foot problem. [SB Nation Bay Area]
  • Rounding out what’s become a morning heavy with various bumps and/or bruises, Darelle Revis sat out practice Sunday with hamstring tightness, but he returned today. [Jenny Ventras]
  • Look, I’m as giddy as the next guy about training camp now being in full swing, and that detailed breakdowns of the battle for the fifth receiver spot on every depth chart are available everywhere. But please, fellow members of the media, unless something truly notable happens, stop giving us literal blow-by-blow recaps of training camp fights. They’re so commonplace that documenting them leads to mundane nothingness in print, and treating July and August scuffles as anything more than that is a prime example of sensationalism. [Les Bowen]