ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – Manny Ramirez had a season to remember and a Super Bowl to forget.
Playing a full season at center for the first time in 13 years, he anchored Denver’s offensive line and helped Peyton Manning post the best statistical season of his unparalleled career in 2013.
Keeping up with Manning’s famed audibles and offensive coordinator Adam Gase’s frenetic pace, Ramirez’s on-the-fly line adjustments helped keep his quarterback’s jersey clean right through the AFC championship.
Then came that nightmare in the Meadowlands.
On the first snap of the Super Bowl, Manning lined up in the shotgun and called for the ball from his 14-yard line, but his center couldn’t hear the cadence. With Ramirez crouching as still as the Wall Street Bull, Manning finally stepped up to reset the play and at that very moment Ramirez’s snap sailed into the north end zone for a safety that ignited Seattle’s 43-8 rout.
Ramirez refuses to let that play haunt him.
“Truthfully, it’s just like any other play. Unfortunately, it happened on the first play of the Super Bowl. But you know it’s just a play that you’ve got to let go and continue to move forward on,” Ramirez said after the Broncos’ minicamp practice Wednesday. “So, I use the whole game as motivation. Not just that one play. So, that’s in the past.”
Like some of his teammates, Ramirez gone back and watched the game and saw how Denver’s offensive line was manhandled by the Seahawks’ front four, helping to render as road kill the highest-scoring team in NFL history.
Like the rest of his teammates, he’s using that loss as incentive for a bounce-back season in 2014 as the Broncos try to become the first team since the 1993 Buffalo Bills to return to the Super Bowl the year after losing it.
“Now we’ve got to go back and finish it,” Ramirez said, echoing a refrain that’s been heard at the team’s training facility ever since the Broncos returned from the franchise’s record fifth Super Bowl defeat.
To that end, the Broncos shuffled their offensive line this offseason, letting Zane Beadles leave in free agency and moving right tackle Orlando Franklin to left guard to take his spot. With former All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady returning from a foot injury that sidelined him most of last season, Chris Clark has shifted to right tackle.
With more muscle inside – where the Broncos average 325 pounds – Denver figures to have better balance this season behind second-year running back Montee Ball and a bevy of young backups.
“I hope so, just because the way we’re built. The front five, we like to run the ball,” Ramirez said. “But, at the same time, we’re going to do what’s best for the team, whether it’s passing or running. So hopefully we are balanced, just because it will help out as far as what we can do.”
A year ago, Ramirez was running with the first team, but it seemed they weren’t sold on him with so many other centers coming into camp for looks. Coach John Fox laughs now that nobody seemed to believe him when he kept saying that Ramirez was his starting center and that he wasn’t just keeping the position warm for J.D. Walton or Dan Koppen or Ryan Lilja or Steve Vallos or even Chris Kuper.
This offseason, the Broncos signed nine-year veteran Will Montgomery, who started the last three seasons in Washington, but Ramirez is still the one snapping the ball to Manning.
“It’s my position to lose,” Ramirez said. “I’m still focused on getting better every day.”
So he can get back to the Super Bowl and make amends.
– By Arnie Stapleton, AP Sports Writer
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