Updated: April 18, 2014, 6:04 PM ET
Jeff Legwold | ESPN.com
The NFL will have questions for the Denver Broncos about how offensive coordinator Adam Gase and quarterback Peyton Manning came to cross paths at the University of Alabama earlier this month, the league confirmed Friday, even though the two did not travel together and Gase was in Tuscaloosa for two days before Manning started his visit.
A coach and a player taking a campus visit together before their team starts its offseason program would be a violation of the league’s collective bargaining agreement. The Broncos start their offseason program Monday.
Whether it is a punishable violation, the league said, is to be determined.
Alabama coach Nick Saban may have painted things with too broad of a brush earlier this week when he said Gase and Manning “were making some visits” and wanted to include Tuscaloosa on the list.
Several sources confirmed Friday that Gase and Manning were indeed at Alabama at the same time, on what some with the Broncos privately described as separate trips, and affirmed that the two are not making “visits,” as Saban had characterized it.
Gase’s wife has family in the New Orleans area, and Gase was on vacation when he drove to Tuscaloosa to spend a few days at the Crimson Tide’s complex as part of the trip. Saban gave Gase his start in coaching when Saban was at Michigan State and Gase was a student at the school.
Gase was on Saban’s staff at LSU as well. Because of that, Gase also has long relationships with several assistants on Saban’s staff at Alabama. Gase is known to make several on-campus visits around the country each offseason to meet with many of coaches he knows.
Manning, who has visited Tennessee and Vols coach Butch Jones on several occasions in recent years, has known Saban for a long time, through Manning’s father, Archie. Manning held workouts at Duke with some of the Broncos’ pass catchers earlier this month, too. His former offensive coordinator at Tennessee, David Cutcliffe, is the Blue Devils’ coach.
The Broncos said Friday the team would have no official comment on the matter. Any punishment considered by the league would likely hinge on how much football was discussed and in what setting, and whether the visit constituted a boot-camp type setting with Xs and Os that had been planned by Gase with Manning asked to be there.
Some in the league said Friday that they believed Saban revealed the visit to bolster his recruiting efforts.
“A lot of people would say, ‘Wow, the guy is one of the best, if not the best, from a career standpoint and about as good as anyone has been in the history of the league,'” Saban said of Manning. “After all the experience and knowledge that he has, he’s going out to try and seek more knowledge and understudying of the game of football so he can play better.”
He added, “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 give them problems. That was a mutual benefit. I know it was a benefit to us. I hope it was a benefit to them as well.”
The coach also called Manning “a friend and very well respected for a long time, ever since I coached in the league” and that Archie Manning “has been a really good friend of mine for a long, long, long time.”
In recent weeks, Saban hosted a football clinic that included Baylor coach Art Briles, Seattle Seahawks special teams coach Brian Schneider and Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees.
It is a murky part of the current CBA, given situations like Dallas quarterback Tony Romo and coach Jason Garrett sitting in team owner Jerry Jones’ suite during this month’s NCAA Final Four at AT&T Stadium. Broncos defensive end DeMarcus Ware, who played for the Cowboys for nine seasons before being released earlier this year, was also in the suite. Covered Broncos for nine years for Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News
Previously covered Steelers, Bills and Titans
Member of Pro Football Hall of Fame Boardof Selectors since 1999