ENGLEWOOD, Colorado — New coaching staff, same expectations.
Coach Gary Kubiak's message was familiar to the Broncos, but also striking for a new coach just getting to know his guys: Super Bowl or bust.
"The message was definitely world championship from the start," receiver Emmanuel Sanders said.
Kubiak showed a 10-minute clip of highlights from the past 20 Super Bowls.
"And he pretty much told us it's going to take a special group of men to bring a world championship to this city, but we've got the guys in the room that's going to do it," Sanders said.
Although GM John Elway was much more frugal in free agency this year and shook things up by parting ways with John Fox after another demoralizing defeat in the playoffs, the Broncos' goal remains to win a Super Bowl before Peyton Manning, who turned 39 last month, retires.
"If we don't bring a Super Bowl to the city this year, then it's a bust season," Sanders said. "That's the standard."
Sanders participated in Manning's annual passing camp at Duke earlier this month, where Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz and Antonio Brown were on hand along with Sanders' teammates Cody Latimer, Virgil Green, Bubba Caldwell and Owen Daniels.
They decided to have some fun and doctored a photo to insert Thomas' head on somebody else's buffed body, and Sanders tweeted it out along with the hashtag "peytondidit."
"I think it was a little bit of Peyton and me," Sanders acknowledged. "I was like, 'Hey, listen, we've got to at least pick on him a little bit. You know, you've got to have fun with it. It's business, but at the end of the day we miss him."
He said Thomas got a good laugh out of it.
Two weeks ago, Thomas told The Associated Press that if contract talks reach an impasse, he'll sign the Broncos' $12.8 million tender by the July 15 deadline. Both sides are hoping it doesn't come to that, however. Thomas echoed Elway's assertion that the goal was to get a long-term deal done "as soon as possible."
Manning isn't expected to meet with the media until Denver's minicamp April 28.
He was bothered by a sore right thigh down the stretch last year and had his worst game since his 2012 comeback in a 24-13 loss to his old team, the Colts, in the playoffs. After contemplating his future, he took a $4 million pay cut.
Sanders said he sensed a rejuvenated and motivated Manning during their weekend of workouts.
"You talk about a guy that understands the clock is ticking for him," Sanders said. "He loves this game. I've never seen somebody love the game of football like he loves it. That passion and that spark is still there. He's still the great leader of this organization and he's fired up about Kubiak being here and hopefully bringing a world championship to the city."
Sanders said wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert confirmed the Broncos will move him into the slot in three-wide receiver packages, presumably putting second-year pro Cody Latimer on the outside opposite Thomas.
"I'm very comfortable in doing that," Sanders said. "Because I played the slot a lot in Pittsburgh. I played the slot a lot in college."
Sanders also predicted a big season for Latimer, who caught just two passes as a rookie.
"I believe in Cody. He's a special player. He's got strong hands. He's a physical tool," Sanders said. "I think that this is going to be the year that he jumps onto the map."
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