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As NFL training camps run wild this weekend, one fact about the league has already been shown: Peyton Manning still rules.
Manning's return to the field, in the disconcerting uniform of the Denver Broncos, was greeted with a record crowd swarming in amid frenzy normally limited to Justin Bieber.
Back home in Indiana, we wince a bit.
Really, the Broncos have our guy?
I know, I know, Andrew Luck is our guy with the Indianapolis Colts now, the new era and all that jazz. I like Luck on first impression and think he'll be the real deal. But I'll never get used to Manning as a Bronco, no matter how great – and he probably has some greatness left – he plays.
That said, there's no denying it's fun to have the NFL back, even in training camp mode.
We've had enough Detroit Lions arrests and contract negotiations to last us the rest of the year and then some. What we'll treasure now is training camp intrigue. Who looks good? Who looks great? Where are the controversies?
In my eyes, there are five training camps to keep an eye on, and fortunately one of them is in our backyard.
The most intriguing, in order:
1. Denver Broncos. No player of Manning's stature has ever been released with fuel in the tank like this. He's arguably the greatest quarterback of his or any generation. He does everything with class. He's funny. Why'd the Colts let him go again?
Indy won't soon get over Manning. In fact, images of him are inevitable to return when Edgerrin James is inducted into the Ring of Honor at Lucas Oil Stadium in September. Wasn't it just yesterday that Manning, James and Marvin Harrison were the Colts?
It'll be fun, if painful, to see Manning try to recapture the form he still had before missing the entire 2011 season with a neck issue. Anyone who has followed Manning or interacted with him in any way wants him to succeed. If he returns to form, there will be no bigger story this season.
2. Indianapolis Colts. Luck enters camp with no pressure, other than replacing the face of the franchise for the last 14 years. Luck is an intelligent guy, a Stanford University grad, and he's football savvy.
It'll be fascinating to see him work with the offense over the course of the next three weeks. It's his show to run now. His arrival seems to have ignited some new energy in wide receiver Reggie Wayne, who is essentially the last longtime offensive link to Manning.
The building of the Colts revamped defense, with its 3-4 scheme and new roles for Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, will also be worth monitoring.
3. Washington Redskins. Robert Griffin III will forever be linked with Luck, as the debate over which quarterback should go No.1 was an ongoing theme. Who gets off to a faster start? Who fits his team quicker?
The Redskins thought enough of Griffin to trade up to get him, and he'll be the starter from Day One.
One question is whether Washington, a perennial underachieving team, can turn its personality around under Griffin. He brings the type of anticipation at quarterback that makes fans not want to miss a snap. That's a good thing. He joins a team that wasn't too great last year, however.
4. New York Jets. Nothing beats a little Tebow Mania. Tim Tebow, a quarterback, author, role model and lightning rod, has said all the right things about joining the Jets as a backup to Mark Sanchez.
But Tebow, like every athlete, has an ego. He believes in his skills, even if most of the country questions his throwing ability. He wants that starting job, which he had with the Broncos before they weighed their options and decided a future Hall of Famer – even at 36 and coming off three neck surgeries – was a better short-term bet.
Sanchez will feel the heat. The New York media will fuel the fire. Things might remain status quo in training camp – barring a Rex Ryan ill-advised quote – but the tension will also be interesting to gauge.
5. New Orleans Saints. Who's in charge here? Not head coach Sean Payton, exiled for a year because of the bounty scandal. Maybe interim head coach Joe Vitt, who is good to run training camp but is suspended for the firs six games.
My vote is Drew Brees. He settled his contract dispute by accepting a thousand truckloads of money. So he's in camp and throwing the football.
Brees can run the Saints offense without the mastermind Payton on the sidelines. We're talking about one of the finest quarterbacks in the game. Have anyone list the league's best QBs and Brees is in the top three most times, top five at worst.
It'll be Brees who sets the tone for the team during training camp, and it's likely to be a tone built on energy, optimism and more than a little chip-on-their-shoulder motivation. The Saints have been flogged this entire offseason, rightly so in many ways.
Now it's their turn to go on the offensive.
NFL camps are in full swing, and with those camps come the best news yet: The season is on the horizon.