Training Camp Update

Prelude (Lunch) – Thursday, July 30

You really can’t go wrong with a free lunch. The Broncos have done this for years and years the day before camp opens up. However, in past years the lunch has come with heavy news. One press lunch had Elvis Dumervil explaining a gun charge. Another media lunch had Von Miller talking about weed. Last year’s lunch was punctuated with a teary John Elway explaining the dire circumstances of the patriarch Pat Bowlen. This year we were talking about naming rights.

Now don’t get me wrong, we could’ve been enthralled with Antonio Smith explaining why the child sex abuse charges that he’s been accused of but not charged with don’t merit him missing camp. We could’ve had Derek Wolfe explain why some sort of drug he took for some sort of issue he’s having wasn’t allowed and he got dinged for the same amount of games as the Deflator. Wolfe and Smith would talk to the press on another day, but the Broncos weren’t going to dim the bulb of a brand new Corporate Sponsorship Deal with that foolishness.

UC Health Training Center!

It was a hot day under the tent but the BBQ tasted great, the sight lines from the new deck above the new hill give great vision to what will be a new year. Gone is Foxy and the Foxettes. In his place stands a man with shorn hair that may have been tinged with some sort of hair dye to lead this version of the Broncos. With a slow drawl, but a certain purpose Gary Kubiak is the new sheriff in town. With him comes in the old ways. Running the ball is back. Rolling out with the ball is in. In the midst of change arrives an old and proven way to do things.

The Broncos are back – let football begin.

Day One – Friday, July 31

There’s no way they are gonna allow this! The media is seated comfortably in stands along the sideline with perfect viewing points and in absolute comfort. Can this really be happening?  The practice fields are running east to west so that the fans on the newly designed hill are seated in the endzones with nary a spec of shade to protect them. There is a tent and misting station. There is an ice cream truck and beverage sales station. There is incredible viewing vantage points for handicapped folks and those from ESPN. They have even moved the local radio tents to a spot where the hosts can even see the practice as opposed to year after year of looking at the back of a VIP tent. Things have changed.

There was no music, but the players were serenaded by 4,000-strong clad in orange and enthusiasm. It’s been a full year since the fans have been allowed at camp and they were gonna be heard. Eruption for Manning. Eruption for completions. Eruption for stretching. The sun is out and football is back. Yay, football!

However, there is a lingering feeling of doubt when it comes to the basic question, “Will any of this actually work?” Peyton Manning said he throws well on the run for a guy who can’t run. Tyler Sambraillo, the promising rookie Right Tackle who has been thrust into a role as the starting left tackle, says he has no idea if this is gonna work. Ben Garland leads the team in heart and hustle, but is he really an NFL starter? Chris Clark who was virtually pushed off the boat with a safe tied around his ankles in deep water last year is back starting at right tackle. Is this thing really gonna work?

Ah well, who really knows? It seems silly to speculate on such stuff as we are lightly dipping into Kubiak’s first day. Of course, Gary has been here a long, long time. This is home and he’s just been on a lengthy NFL walkabout to Houston and Baltimore. He knows these high altitude practices better than anybody else. He has a firm idea of what will work because it’s actually what has worked. He has the rings and the experience as well as the health scare to put things in proper perspective. So, when the players took off their helmets a little more than halfway through the practice and simply went into walk thru mode, the fans may have been bored, but it made sense.

Kubiak sort-of welcomed back Antonio Smith. We shall see if this guy actually makes the team. I’m sure the Broncos are hoping a young guy steps up. Derek Wolfe was out there with the ones even though he will be sitting on a shelf for the first month of the season. Wolfe is physically enourmous, but his rollercoaster NFL life continues to hit its own highs and lows. Malik Jackson left practice with a strained calf. I reached out to MJ and he assured me everything was fine. However, we’ve seen scary moments as exemplfied by Ryan Clady walking off not to return during OTAs. It’s camp and anything can and will happen when it comes to injury.

But all eyes where were they should’ve been and that was squarely on Peyton Manning.  No. 18 looked sharp completing passes just over the outstretched fingertips of defensless defensive backs. He rolled and delivered in an athletic sort of way that Broncos fans just wished he was able to do on 3rd and 5 on that second half opening playoff drive versus the Colts last January. Manning is going to be spectacular in this camp. He is going to be stellar in the preseason and after the Broncos start 5-1 fans will be screaming from the rooftops about another Super Bowl run. This is how it felt during Day One.

Perhaps the fans should root for a boring camp to ensure an exciting season.

I’m just hoping a guy named Joe Don Duncan makes the team because it’s fun as hell to say Joe Don Duncan.

Day 2 – August 1

I really should be riding my bike to camp. I promise I will try. Right now I’m parking in a corn field somewhat close to the UC Health Training Center. It’s not a bad walk. I don’t really need media parking. Hey, it’s probably a good thing to get in at least a little exercise during camp. All that being said, I should be riding my bike. I guess there’s alot of things we all should be doing but we don’t. But, when it comes to running a training camp, it’s looking more and more like Gary Kubiak knows exactly what he wants. From stretching to stretching and helmets off when it gets hot, the Broncos, on a languid Saturday under a blistering Rocky Mountain sun, went throught their paces with quickness and balance.

Gone are the days when Peyton Manning would take the majority of snaps and Brock would get scraps like a lonely puppy dog. There is balance and for every rep Manning gets Brock is right there with him. There is rest when rest is needed, but Kubiak made it clear that if we get it done, then we are done. For the second straight practice, helmets were taken off and players were simply walking through the motions. Both fields were rolling and the fans were most likely bored to tears. In fact, the amount of fans dwindled signficantly from the day before. There was specualtion that unemployed folks enjoy doing something on the weekdays more than on the weekends. I’m not sure I buy that hypothesis, but there was plenty of space on the green hillside from which to watch the Broncos practice.

Kyle Williams ruptured his achilles and his short career as a Broncos player is probably over. He had a legit shot to make this team as a kick returner despite his playoff horror show with the 49ers a couple of years ago. He was carted off early in the practice and then tweeted out the injustice of being hurt after working so hard. Well, I’m glad we have twitter to understand his dire situation. Nothing like breaking news – about yourself.

I suppose anything can happen at anytime.

I knew that the incredible seating arrangement for the media on day one was too good to be true – it was. There was a huge sign saying if you weren’t Broncos personnel, get the hell away. What?!?!? This is the exact spot where I sat for a good hour yesterday!!!! Ah, well. I was told that I needed to stand on the pavement sidewalk, not the grass. Uh, Okay – I said, as I took one step back. Apparently Spring Break is over.

In terms of the actual practice, it was another nice day for Peyton if not a basic day of coloring between the lines. Nothing too fast, nothing too tough, nothing too hard equals a happy day in Garyland. Run, run, run is the mantra and it appears that C.J. Anderson is up for the task. He carries himself with a certain air of belonging that may feel unjustified for an undrafted guy, but he certainly doesn’t shy away from the mantle of the lead running back.  I have no idea how Montee Ball will crack that spot despite his possible desire and definitive draft position. C.J. is the man and that is clear.

Ryan Harris is back with the Broncos and he got his shot at Right Tackle on the wheel of “who knows who is really gonna play on the line.” We know that the Broncos brought in Jake Long because there are some huge questions. My guess is that his two torn ACL’s haven’t reached the place they need to be to get him back on the field.  What we have is just what we have. It’s a bit terrifying to be honest. Will teams just simply stack the line and dare Manning to beat them over the top? I sure would. Will teams bring 9 guys in the box to stuff this running attack? I sure would. Will teams dare Manning to actually rollout and throw on the run. I sure would. The questions are so plentiful, it’s easy to not pay attention to the other side of the ball where the Broncos may be building the best defense in the NFL.

Sure, Derek Wolfe will be missed – a little. But, Kubiak went out of his way to praise the slender 317-pound Sylvester Williams. Kenny Anunike has his masters from Duke and his health back. Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan are further along than expected. Aquib Talib and Chris Harris are two island dwellers that look as comfortable as cash on the corners. Then there is Von.

Von Miller went through his weight fluxations that seemed to roll up and down with his marijuana intake. He has settled down both in terms of lifestyle choices and weight. He will play around 244 and there is not an ounce of fat in that equation. He played at a muscle-bound, bloated 255 at his heaviest and was completely ineffective and eventually injured. He is finally at peace with himself and those around him. Miller has seen the gargantuan salary of Justin Houston and knows his payday is just a few months away. No need to hate when you can stay clean and eat hungry. Von is embarrassing suckas in one-on-ones and will soon be terrifying tackles around the league. It’s gonna be a fun year.

My favorite guy at camp is Karl Schmitz the kicking YouTube sensation. Sadly, he’s trying to take the job of one of my other favorite guys at camp Britton Colquitt. We shall see what three million bucks really means. Schmitz had a couple of shaky kicks but then began to boom ’em high and loud. He looks like he should be on the cover of Men’s Health Magazine as an underwear model. When did punters become action movie stars? Opportunities are brief. Four kicks is four kicks and you best make ’em worth it. So far so good for Schmitz, but something tells me the Colquitt dynasty isn’t really in jeapordy after the Prater disaster from last year. Counting your nickels and dimes plays a critical role into what will happen in this position.

Danny Trevathan was running after children at the end of practice and swooping them up in his gigantic arms. Giggles and laughter spilled onto the field as the end of practice reveals moments of joy and relaxation. Trevathan later spoke about how good he feels and how much he’s looking forward to the year. This is the harsh reality of the NFL about to come home to roost. He’s suffered some horrible injuries in succession. The linebackers are lining up in droves to take his spot. His time to recover and play will soon be here and without the proper amount of preparation you can only hope he doesn’t push too fast too soon. But, there isn’t much time to wait.

Even on day two there are certain clocks that are ticking. Tomorrow, for the first time, the Broncos go at it in pads. Who will go down?

Tick… Tick… Tick…

…to be continued.