From Comcast SportsNetDENVER (AP) -- Peyton Manning's right thumbnail was covered with white tape and put under a media microscope upon his return to the football field Wednesday.The tape didn't wrap all the way around his thumb, leaving him able to grip the football like normal, and teammates said his throws and hand-offs at practice were unaffected by his injury in his first action since smacking his throwing hand on a defender's helmet Sunday night.For the first time, Denver coach John Fox listed his quarterback on the team's injury report -- "Peyton Manning, right thumb, full" -- but said he noticed no lingering effects.Manning, who threw two second-half touchdowns in Denver's 34-14 win over New Orleans after getting hurt just before halftime, said after practice that his thumb was "sore, but it's more of an irritant than anything else."Manning gets all this scrutiny.After all, he missed all of last season in Indianapolis with a nerve injury in his neck and now plays in a city that 24 years ago argued about the quality of Halloween candy handed out to trick-or-treaters by a young John Elway.Now, the discolored right thumbnail on the four-time MVP who's playing like he's hungry for a fifth is certainly a big deal in media circles, both traditional and social.Manning acknowledged he was "probably a little bit lucky" that he banged the nail and not the knuckle of his right thumb on New Orleans defensive end Martez Wilson's helmet just before absorbing his only hit of the night.Another half-inch, and all bets would have been off for the rolling Broncos (4-3), who lead the AFC West, are finally hitting their stride behind Manning's spectacular play and steady leadership and look every bit like a team ready to take off.Another half-inch and this is rookie Brock Osweiler's offense. Or Caleb Hanie's."They say it's a game of inches," wide receiver Eric Decker said. "Maybe it's a game of centimeters."The league's leading passer at age 36, Manning is playing better than anyone -- the Broncos and their quarterback included -- could have hoped for over the season's first two months."Well, certainly, it was a lot of unknown before this season," Manning said. "I think there still is. This is a new team and nobody knew how this team would form chemistry-wise. I didn't know what my situation would be. I mentioned early on that I'm feeling my way out. We're finding out our identity. I think we are still doing that. I think we have it in some places."Even though they're not all the way there yet, Elway, the Broncos' vice president of football operations, said during his weekly podcast on the team's website that Denver is coming off its "most complete game of the year.""We thought it was going to be a track meet and we'd really have to keep up with them," Elway said. "The compliment goes to (defensive coordinator) Jack Del Rio, his staff and the defensive players. They really answered the bell."Drew Brees was limited to 137 yards through the air until the Saints' final drive, when he threw for 76 yards with several Broncos backups in the game.Weakside linebacker Wesley Woodyard, an undrafted fifth-year pro from Kentucky, won AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors Wednesday for a monster game that included 13 tackles (9 solo), a sack, an interception, two pass breakups and a forced fumble -- exceeding or matching his career high in every category.Despite losing linebacker Joe Mays (broken leg), the Broncos could get cornerback Tracy Porter back this week. He's missed the last two games after experiencing light-headedness and a racing heart -- the same symptoms he had before suffering a seizure during training camp.He returned to practice on a limited basis Wednesday and said he hopes to play Sunday at Cincinnati: "It's a matter of me getting my conditioning back, getting my legs back up under me," Porter said. "As far as seizure-wise, I don't have any problem."The last time the Broncos visited the Bengals (3-4), Brandon Stokley's 87-yard "Immaculate Deflection" touchdown catch on a batted pass with 11 seconds left gave Denver a farfetched 12-7 win in the 2009 opener."Brandon runs through my mind all the time," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis lamented during a conference call with Denver reporters. "But I wish we had more guys here that were on that team. I think we have about seven guys that were actually in that game."Believe it or not, Stokley also has had bad dreams about that play in which he cradled cornerback Leon Hall's deflection at midfield and raced untouched into the end zone -- but not before he headily took an extra couple of precious seconds off the clock by running along the goal line before stepping across for the score."I just kind of saw that nobody was behind me chasing me. I saw a guy kind of give up on it. I knew there wasn't a lot of time left, so I thought, why not try to run some time off?" Stokley said. "And then the next day, I kind of started having nightmares about it. What if I'd have gotten caught? What if I had fumbled? What if somebody would have hit me?"I think next time I'll probably just get in the end zone."Notes: Manning said that "being from New Orleans, knowing firsthand what hurricanes can do," his thoughts were with the victims of superstorm Sandy. ... Woodyard is one of just nine players to record double-digit tackles, a sack, an interception and a forced fumble in a game since sacks became an official NFL statistic in 1982. ... Sunday's game at Cincinnati snaps a streak of 12 straight games in which the Broncos drew the networks' top broadcast team, first because of Tim Tebow and then because of Manning.
0:41 - Michael Holley, Kayce Smith and Tom Giles recap their thoughts on drafting Jayson Tatum and trade rumors involving the Celtics.
6:21 - Ian Thomsen joins BST to discuss if it would be worth trading for Paul George as a one-year rental and if there would be a chance he could still around long-term if traded to Boston.
11:13 - Evan Drellich joins BST to talk about Rick Porcello’s outing, the Red Sox offense coming to life, and Doug Fister being claimed by the Red Sox.
15:10 - Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely look back at the Celtics/Nets trade, what the assets have turned into, and if Danny Ainge has done a good job turning those assets into players.
CHICAGO – As opening nights go at the NHL Draft, Friday night was a bit of a ho-hum affair for the Boston Bruins at the United Center home of the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Bruins went the safe route by drafting a smooth, defensive-minded defenseman with the 18th overall pick when they selected Finnish product Urho Vaakenainen, and in doing so left more dynamic forwards like Kristian Vesalainen and Kailer Yamamoto still on the draft board for other teams to claim as their own. It was a bit of a curious choice given how many defensemen the Bruins already have in the prospect pipeline, but the lack of strength in the draft class seemed to lead teams to carve their own paths looking for players.
The 6-foot-1, 188-pounder clearly has miles to go offensively despite his smooth skating and solid passing skills, but there’s also a consideration that the teenager has been playing in the men’s league in Finland for the last couple of seasons. It makes things a little more difficult to project for the Finn D-man, but the Bruins believe there is some upside to his offensive game given the skills, the hockey IQ and the considerable confidence that the player has in his own game.
“His gap control and skating ability are really good. He’s obviously played in the Finnish Elite League at a very young age for one and a half years now and he’s played on the big stage at the world juniors. We feel like there’s a lot of upside for a 200-foot player that gets back on pucks, and then can transition them back out. Being able to cover ice is an important part of the game, and it continues to evolve in that direction,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney, who indicated Vaakenainen will play in North America in 2018-19 after fulfilling his contractual obligations in Finland. “We tracked what he did on offense at the junior league level prior to him jumping to the elite league, and it lines up pretty well with other elite players that made the jump to that level.
“It’s a valid question and whether he gets put into those [offensive] situations this year is what we’re excited about with his [Finnish] team moving forward.”
While Vaakenainen sounded surprised the Bruins selected him after only a single meeting at the NHL scouting combine, Sweeney said that Boston’s head scout in Finland has enough history with the family to vouch for the kid’s makeup.
So while it’s far from a sexy pick and the Bruins could have tried to hit a home run with an 18th overall selection in a mediocre draft, the B’s will also get some time before anybody is ready to label the Finnish blueliner a boom or a bust.
The rest of the draft night didn’t add up to much for the B’s, however. They made the selection of Vaakenainen after strongly considering dropping down in the first round, and in doing so lost one of the better trade chips in the form of their 2017 first round pick. There were discussions with Minnesota about Marco Scandella and a few trade feelers to other clubs that might listen on a D-man, but the Bruins now have to hit the reset button on trade discussions for left-shot defensemen or top-6 left wings.
Perhaps Scandella’s $4 million per season salary was an issue for the Bruins, or maybe the Bruins didn’t want to give up their first round pick for a 27-year-old D-man coming off a so-so season with the Wild. Either way, there wasn’t enough momentum for the Bruins to get a trade done with a bevy of defensemen rumored to be available if the offer is good enough.
“I was on the record saying that we’d be offering our first round pick for target-specific players, and we did do that,” said Sweeney. “I don’t blame teams for not necessarily wanting to go through with it, so we went ahead with a player we wanted with our own pick. We continue to build what we think is a good group of guys moving forward.
“There are a couple of areas we’d like to address and get better. We’re trying to help our team currently. Certainly Brandon [Carlo] jumped into our lineup and we hope Charlie [McAvoy] will carry over what he did, and we have other players that will push. We have six returning defensemen we feel good about and we’ll certainly push from underneath, but it’s an area we’ll continue to address. We have some forwards that we also hope will come online, but we’ll never stop exploring and trying to improve our club.”
So let’s sum it all up after a week of additions and subtractions from the Original Six organization: The Bruins added a decidedly vanilla defenseman in the first round of the NHL Draft that might be a simple stay-at-home guy, and they weren’t able to muster any kind of deals for a D-man or winger to enhance the NHL roster. On the other hand, they didn’t give up much over the week as well and they didn’t do much at all to harm a solid roster that looked like they were finally on the right track pushing into the playoffs last season.
The Bruins could be in store for an action-packed Day Two of the draft on Saturday full of promising prospects and bountiful trades, but it sure feels like the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago isn’t going to be a very memorable one for the Black and Gold.