The Denver Broncos reconvened Monday at Dove Valley and for the first time the new rookies met the veterans on the roster. While the youngsters experience may have been intimidating or awkward, two NFL veterans, new to the team, are excited to work with some familiar faces.
Both Antonio Smith and James Casey have already settled into Dove Valley and were candid in their press conference Monday one day into phase two of the team’s organized team workouts.
“It’s a breathe of fresh air,” Smith said of being reunited with defensive line coach Bill Kollar, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and head coach Gary Kubiak. “I’m loving it. I’m enjoying everyday.”
The Broncos agreed to a one-year, $2 million contract with Smith at the end of March according to spotrac.com. Last season the Raiders signed him to a two-year, $9 million deal. The 6’3”, 290 pound defensive tackle and end is entering his 12th season in the NFL. He is coming off of a season in which he played well as a pass rusher while starting in all 16 of the Raiders games. He had three sacks and seven tackles for a loss with Oakland. His pass rush as always been excellent from the inside while his run-stopping ability has been spotty at best.
“Wade and his guys, the whole defensive coaching staff is real good at knowing what you can do, letting you do it and using it to there advantage. Some coaches get big into fitting you into the whole frame work of what they want,” Smith said. “But Wade studies you, sees what you do best and says ‘if you can do this I will make my defense work best with you doing that.’ I think that that freedom works well with what I do on the field.”
Smith joins a relatively young group but also an accomplished one. He likes what he sees when he has looked around at workouts and it rivals any team he has been on in his career.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had this many weapons on one defense than I have right now,” Smith said through a constant smile Monday.
Tight end James Casey also spoke to the media Monday and also shares a link with Kubiak and his staff. Before playing his last two years in Philadelphia for the Eagles Casey was a Houston Texan from 2009-12 and enjoyed some success as a versatile player on both special teams, as a fullback and tight end. He took seven visits across the NFL after the Eagles released him due to salary issues and he landed with the Broncos due to two big factors.
“It was Kubiak of course, knowing those guys, knowing the system a little bit always helps out. The main things was just trying to get the best fit. This was the first place I thought of when I was released from the Eagles just because of the chance to win. When you get older in your career you want to get a chance to win a championship and this was the best place possible to come in and try and compete for a job and then go out there and show what I can do,” Casey said.
He will be expected to continue to be a versatile player. A guy Kubiak and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison can fit in at tight end and fullback while also join the special teams units in order to show some veteran leadership. It is a role he expects and embraces.
“Early on in my career I came out as more of a receiver out of college so I kind of had to work my way into tight end and had to learn fullback. You’re always learning stuff. Now I feel real confident, I’ve played long enough, I’ve experienced almost everything you can see football-wise,” Casey said in regards to his veteran status. “I think I’m best suited know for the physical part of the game.”
Both Smith and Casey fit the mold of what both Dennison and Phillips have been looking for and Kubiak certainly knows what he has in these two players. Neither will be asked to carry a huge load of production and they will be the definition of role players but one thing is for certain they understand that role and accept it even in the early days of May.