ENGLEWOOD, Colorado — After a rookie season in which he caught more flack than passes, Cody Latimer is preparing for a much bigger role in Denver's offense in 2015.
That wasn't a bad thing in the Broncos' minds. This way, he could learn from some of the best and not face the pressure of having to produce right away.
Latimer admits he took that approach a little too far, however.
He played in just eight games in 2014, catching two passes for 23 yards and no TDs.
Looking back, Latimer said he just didn't prepare properly for the pros and tried too hard to please Peyton Manning.
"I've got to accept the fact I messed up," Latimer said. "I wasn't on my Ps and Qs. I can't let that happen again. It's like when you touch a hot stove when you're a little kid. I'm not going to do that again."
Latimer would regularly wow everyone as a member of the scout team. But he couldn't translate that into games because he couldn't always decipher Manning's many changes in the play call at the line.
When the season was over, Latimer hit the playbook, the game film, the weight room and the football field with a renewed vigor.
The results are a more chiseled physique, more confidence, and, he insists, a better brain for the game.
"I'm more mentally into it this year," Latimer said. "I go home and study a lot now. I spend extra time with coaches after practice. In meeting rooms, actually paying attention. Last year, just a mess-up on my part. But this year, I'm making sure I don't have that same downfall."
Latimer received a cherished invitation this spring to Manning's annual passing camp, where he made an impression on the five-time MVP.
"I thought I saw a little change in him just in those four months since I had seen him," Manning said. "I could tell he's been working on his own. He's in good shape and obviously, he's excited about his opportunity. He knows that he's got a chance to play a big role on this team. ... I'm pulling for him."
Also belting his praises is Sanders.
"On my Twitter, I'm real vocal about Cody. That's because I believe in Cody. He's a special player," Sanders said. "He's got strong hands. He's a physical tool. I think this is going to be the year that he jumps onto the map."
Latimer has those expectations, too.
Even though coach Gary Kubiak is installing more of a run-based offense, Latimer said this is the perfect platform for him: "Love it. There's a lot of running, we get to block. A lot of deep throws. That's something we like — big chunks of yardage."
Latimer swears he's ready this time around.
"When I get in the huddle now, I'm just confident. Last year I was a rookie and I was worried so much about what was Peyton thinking. I wanted to impress him so much," Latimer said.
He now realizes that respect comes organically.
"If I go out there and play my ball, hopefully that impresses him," Latimer said. "But that's not my main focus. I'm just trying to make sure I make plays when called on and I know what I'm doing."
Latimer languished on the sideline last year when a terrific class of wide receivers put up big numbers. But he swears he's not driven by catching up to the likes of Odell Beckham, Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans.
"I came into a good situation and they came into better situations," Latimer said. "I had Pro Bowlers in front of me. They came in and they were their team's main guy. So, they had to take that step. I got a year of learning experience to see how the game is played."
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