T.J. Ward, Carson Palmer, Eli Manning
You think Denver Broncos, you think Peyton Manning. You think game-breaking receivers. You think offense.
Former Cleveland Browns safety T.J. Ward, for one, wants to see a change in that thinking, particularly on the part of opponents.
Ward, who joined the Broncos in free agency, points to Denver's 43-8 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl as the primary reason why his new team needs a new identity. And Ward wants the Broncos' defense to make a statement "from the first preseason game" that it is every bit a force to be reckoned with as Manning and the rest of the offense.
The Broncos' decision-makers clearly sought to achieve as much by making three key defensive additions in Ward, end DeMarcus Ware, and cornerback Aqib Talib.
"As good as the Broncos' offense was last year, you see what happens when you get put up against a stout defense and an offense that can pretty much manage and make some plays here and there," Ward told USA Today. "We're sending a message right now that we're coming in not only trying to be one of the top offenses in the league, but one of the top defenses in the world and get that Super Bowl ring."
CARSON PALMER ACCEPTS REALITY THAT CARDINALS MIGHT DRAFT HIS REPLACEMENT
At 34 and entering his 12th NFL season, Carson Palmer realizes he is in the final stages of his quarterbacking career.
He's happy to be a part of the Arizona Cardinals, working in the quarterback-friendly offense of coach Bruce Arians. And that's saying plenty for Palmer, who had threatened retirement before the Cincinnati Bengals traded him in 2011 and whose refusal to accept a pay cut led to the Oakland Raiders trading him to the Cardinals last year.
Palmer seemingly performed well enough, particularly through the second half of last season, to convince the Cardinals that no immediate change is in order. Still, he apparently wouldn't be shocked if the team decided to select a quarterback at some point in next month's NFL Draft.
"I know I'm not going to play forever," Palmer told azcardinals.com. "It's hard for us players to admit that. The older you get, the harder it is to admit it. You don't see it happening. You still feel good, you still feel confident, you still feel healthy.
"But that's the reality. That's the business. It doesn't matter how you feel about it, whether it irks you or you don't care. That's the game."
FORMER GIANTS' OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR SAYS ELI MANNING ISN'T DECLINING
There has been plenty of media discussion in New York that the Giants are concerned with quarterback Eli Manning being on the decline in light of his recent struggles and the fact he's recovering from ankle surgery.
But former Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride isn't buying it.
"I can't imagine (the Giants are) down on Eli going forward," Gilbride told SiriusXM NFL Radio.
He acknowledged that Manning wasn't in top form in 2013, saying the quarterback would "be the first one to tell you that he could've had a better year."
But Gilbride also pointed out that Manning has rebounded from "minor procedures in the past that nobody knew about."
JAIRUS BYRD SEES HIMSELF AS AN IDEAL FIT IN SAINTS' DEFENSE
When the strength of your game is creating turnovers, you want to be part of a defense that gives you ample opportunities to do so.
Safety Jairus Byrd sees exactly that with his new team, the New Orleans Saints. Rob Ryan, the Saints' defensive coordinator who once worked in the same capacity with the Browns, is known for his creative and aggressive scheming.
That, along with the Saints' capacity for being prolific on offense, was a major selling point when the former member of the Buffalo Bills hit the free-agent market last month.
"To have that ability with an offense that's going to put up points and a stingy defense like that and exotic in the way Coach Ryan calls things, it's unorthodox, it's going to keep people guessing," Byrd told ESPN.com. "That combination right there was enough."
Another impressive combo is Byrd and fellow play-making safety Kenny Vaccaro, a first-round draft pick last year. Ryan seemingly should be able to do plenty to get both heavily involved with helping to make life miserable for opposing quarterbacks.
Although Byrd said he has yet to have a detailed conversation with Ryan about his role, he did add, "Look, he has some stuff in his head that he's going to get out one way or the other."
BRIAN CUSHING TWEETS HE'S '100%' FOR TEXANS' OFFSEASON WORKOUTS
Unfortunately for Brian Cushing and the Houston Texans, the middle linebacker is all too familiar with recovering from injuries.
The latest are the broken fibula and torn lateral collateral ligament he suffered last season. Cushing insisted in a tweet that he is "100%" recovered as he and his teammates begin their offseason workouts with the club.
Of course, this is the second consecutive offseason that Cushing finds himself on the comeback trail. He played only five games of the 2012 season before suffering a torn ACL in the same knee he injured last year.
"I'm just looking forward to playing football again," Cushing told SiriusXM NFL Radio. "Getting back, playing the game I love and putting forward a full 16 games."
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