Montee Ball isn't being allowed to ease into anything with the Denver Broncos.

Ball, a second-round pick running back from Wisconsin, has spent time after most of the team's voluntary practices working through plays with quarterback Peyton Manning. Even on the team's nine-hole golf outing earlier this week, Ball found himself in Manning's foursome.

"I can tell you Ball (and rookie tackle Vinston Painter) have been studying their playbooks and not playing much golf, which is a good thing," Manning joked Thursday.

But Manning was clear about how much he, and the rest of the Broncos, is depending on Ball to be ready to play right away this season.

"We're just kind of going through plays, going through games, getting him comfortable hearing audibles at the line of scrimmage. Because we are going to count on him in a big way this year," Manning said. "He's a rookie, but coach (John) Fox isn't going to bring him along slowly."

Ball and 2012 third-round pick Ronnie Hillman seem to be the players benefiting most from veteran Willis McGahee's decision to not attend these voluntary practices. McGahee is continuing to recover from knee injury that ended his 2012 season in mid-November and is doing most his training and rehab in his hometown of Miami.