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Did Manning's meeting with Saban cross the line?

(AP Photo/AL.com, Vasha Hunt)

By ARNIE STAPLETON

AP Pro Football Writer

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Peyton Manning's never-ending quest to hone his game and Nick Saban's desire to decipher fast-paced offenses led to a recent meeting that the Crimson Tide coach called mutually beneficial.

It also might have violated NFL rules because, according to Saban, Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase also was in attendance.

The league doesn't allow players and their coaches to meet before the start of offseason workouts, which for the Broncos begin Monday. On-field instruction won't start until mid-May.

The Associated Press left messages with the team and the NFL on Friday seeking comment.

Gase, one of the rising young stars in the NFL coaching ranks, and Saban go way back. Gase worked under Saban at Michigan State in the late 1990s and followed him to LSU as a graduate assistant in 2000.

Saban also has known Manning for a long time and is friends with his father, Archie.

Saban said after Thursday's practice that Manning and Gase were "making some visits" and stopped by Tuscaloosa, Ala., a couple of weeks ago.

"To be honest with you, he was just trying to learn so he could be a better player," Saban said of the five-time MVP who led the Broncos to the Super Bowl, where they were soundly beaten by Seattle.

With Gase calling the shots, Manning set NFL records by throwing for 55 touchdowns and 5,447 yards in 2013 as the Broncos became the first team in league history to score more than 600 points in a season.

Saban picked their brains about the no-huddle, something Alabama has had trouble with, and Manning picked up pointers from one of the brightest minds in coaching.

"Since they're a no-huddle team, we had a lot of questions for them, in terms of what gives them problems and what defensive teams do that gives them problems," Saban said. "That was kind of a mutual, hopefully beneficial - I know it was a benefit to us. I hope it was a benefit to them, as well."

The Broncos gather Monday for what's called Phase One of the voluntary offseason workout program. During the first two weeks of the offseason program, activities are limited to strength and conditioning and rehabilitation before any on-field work and instruction are allowed.

Before giving the keynote address at the Boy Scouts of America Sports Breakfast in Denver on Wednesday, Manning said he's going to use Denver's 43-8 loss to the Seahawks in the Super Bowl as motivation for the upcoming season: "We have to try to find a way to build off that, and try to take it a step farther, try to finish," he suggested.

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AP Sports Writer John Zenor contributed.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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

Updated April 18, 2014

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