DENVER -- Sometime before the Denver Broncos' playoff game last weekend, Peyton Manning delivered a short speech. He talked to his teammates about all the adversity they'd overcome in 2013, from coach John Fox's in-season heart surgery to injuries to suspensions to skyscraping expectations.
And then Manning singled out Manny Ramirez. Not the troubled baseball player with the dreadlocks; the bald-headed 30-year-old center who's a relative unknown outside of the Broncos' locker room. Six months ago, Ramirez hadn't snapped a ball in an NFL game, and now here he is, confident and steady, one with his quarterback. They've come a long way together, and Manning just wanted to acknowledge his center's efforts.
"He said it's been a pleasure being able to put his hands in my rear," Ramirez said. "Which didn't come off right. But everybody understood what he was saying."
There is no way to fully understand what Ramirez does. He is a protector, a translator in a world of dummy calls and verbiage; he is the calm in the chaos. He's a guy who snaps a football between his legs. One of the few people who can relate, perhaps, is New England Patriots lineman Ryan Wendell. Ramirez and Wendell are centers for two of the greatest -- and most demanding -- quarterbacks in NFL history.