- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 23, 2015

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) - For the first time since taking over Denver’s offense from an injured Peyton Manning, Brock Osweiler made it clear he has no intention of giving up his gig very easily.

Osweiler will make his sixth straight start for the Broncos (10-4) when they host the Cincinnati Bengals (11-3) Monday night.

Ever since he took over for Manning in the third quarter against Kansas City on Nov. 15, Osweiler has insisted that this job is still Manning’s and so is this team.

However, he acknowledged Wednesday that his mentality all along has been to make any decision tough on the coaches if and when Manning is healthy enough to return from a torn plantar fascia in his left foot.

“I think that’s any athlete’s mindset,” Osweiler said. “You know, once you get your feet on the field, you don’t want to go back to the bench, if you will.

“So, you’re always out there trying to prove something. You’re always trying to prove to your teammates that you’re capable of getting the job done. You’re trying to prove things to your coaching staff and you’re trying to prove things to the fan base.

“You always want to put forward your best foot.”

That’s something Manning, the league’s only five-time MVP, just isn’t capable of doing yet.

Manning returned to practice last week, but only for two days. He was too sore to practice Friday. Although coach Gary Kubiak refused to characterize it as a setback, he did put it this way: “the progress stopped last Thursday.”

On Wednesday, Manning returned to practicing on his own at the team’s indoor facility, something he did two weeks ago and what he’ll do the rest of this week.

“He just didn’t have a good day last Friday, so we just start the process over again this week,” Kubiak said. “I’m going to have him working inside because I think that’s what’s best. I like that routine, so that’s what we’re going to do this week. Hopefully we can make progress each and every day.”

Osweiler is dealing with some health issues himself: a sore left shoulder and infected left eye.

He hurt his shoulder on a 7-yard scramble at Pittsburgh last week and grimaced on handoffs afterward, but said it didn’t play a role in his poor second half that followed a four-touchdown first half in Denver’s 34-27 loss.

“It’s OK,” Osweiler said. “This time of year, I think everybody’s banged up. I’m not the only one. I’m not worried about it. It’s just one of those things that happens in the game of football and I’ll be fine come Monday night.”

He awoke Tuesday with yet another issue, an eye infection.

“It’s unreal is what it is,” Osweiler said. “It came on yesterday. I have no idea what’s going on with my eye. I’m going to go see the doctor this afternoon and hopefully we can get it fixed.”

As for his vision, “it’s OK,” Osweiler said. “It’s good enough to find the open receiver.”

Kubiak squelched speculation that Manning would return to action when he announced Osweiler was his starter at the team meeting Wednesday morning.

This marked the second consecutive week, however, that there was a delay in naming Osweiler the starter.

“It doesn’t bother me either way,” Osweiler said. “I’m going to prepare every single week the same exact way.”

Asked if he could say Osweiler would start next week against San Diego, Kubiak replied, “Brock is our starter moving forward and we’re trying to get Peyton healthy. That’s where we’re at.”

The Broncos are 3-2 under Osweiler, who’s been victimized by a leaky line and big drops by Vernon Davis and Demaryius Thomas in back-to-back losses to the Raiders and Steelers.

“I haven’t said a thing” to them, Osweiler said. “I’m not worried about it one bit. Guys are going to drop passes at times. I’m going to throw interceptions at times. Some guys are going to miss blocks at times. That’s football. I’m very confident in Demaryius and Vernon.”

Notes: Osweiler said he and his wife will take advantage of the rare Friday off and deliver gifts to a children’s hospital on Christmas. … Safeties Darian Stewart and Omar Bolden, both dealing with pulled hamstrings, missed Wednesday’s workout as did linebacker Todd Davis (shoulder).

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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