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Peyton Manning calls his Broncos debut ‘a big step’

Denver quarterback PeytManning directs Broncos offense during first series plays first quarter Chicago Bears-Denver Broncos game Thursday August 9 2012

Denver quarterback Peyton Manning directs the Broncos offense during the first series of plays in the first quarter of the Chicago Bears-Denver Broncos game Thursday August 9, 2012 in Chicago. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: September 11, 2012 1:44PM

On the surface, it was overkill.

Every warmup snap, every throw in pregame, even how he covered his heart during the National Anthem. Peyton Manning couldn’t escape the camera on Thursday night, as the legendary one-time Indianapolis Colts quarterback was starting the second chapter of his career, now the quarterback for the Denver Broncos.

Considering he missed all of last season with nerve damage in his neck that needed several surgeries and leaving his career in doubt, Manning couldn’t help but be ­reflective after the 31-3 victory over the Bears at Soldier Field.

“I always have to take the time just to say I sure have come a long way in the last year,’’ Manning said. “I put in a lot of hard work, but I know how much help I’ve gotten along the way. I’ve had a lot of training rooms, doctors, considering where I was a year ago, I was out there, took a snap, completed some passes [Thursday], that was rewarding. That first play, that first snap, that was a big step for me.’’

With little pressure from the Bears defense, Manning went 4-of-7 on the opening drive, for 44 yards. The drive ended on a third-and-8 from the Bears’ 12-yard line, when a Manning throw that was slightly behind receiver Brandon Stokley was tipped in the air and picked off by a diving Major Wright to end the threat.

Manning’s best play on the drive came on a third-and-17, when he actually stepped up in the pocket and hit Eric Decker on a deep crossing route for 19 yards and a first down.

“Something to build on,’’ Manning added of his first game in 579 days, “but certainly some things to improve on.’’

Where’s Brian?

Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Urlacher was just a rumor on Thursday night, as the face of the Bears defense has sat out six consecutive practices and missed the preseason opener against the Broncos.

Urlacher sat out four practices with a sore left knee, but has been away from the team for personal reasons since.

General manager Phil Emery said in a pregame interview with WBBM-AM (780) that “Brian was doing well.’’

“We treat each and every injury on an individual basis,’’ Emery said. “He’s a guy who needs some rest right now. Practice is not in his best interest or the best interest of the Chicago Bears.’’

Sitting out

A day after fiancée Kristin Cavallari gave birth to the couple’s first child, quarterback Jay Cutler was back in uniform for the preseason opener, but didn’t play. Matt Forte and Julius Peppers also were spectators.

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