It seems like everything that takes place on the field at training camp is worthy of applause.
The Broncos get cheered when they make a nice catch, an interception or when one of the coaches fires a particularly keen and accurate verbal missive. Sometimes even the most routine of plays draws boisterous applause. Gracious, the players get cheered even when they run from the huddle to the water closet.
“Hey, Nick, we love you buddy,” exhorted Ellen Levine-Jones, a.k.a. “Bronco Betty,” as Ferguson sprints about 100 yards from defensive-back drills to the row of portable toilets at one end of the practice fields. Ferguson replied by giving the “No. 1″ signal with his hand before sprinting behind the latched door to take care of his business.
It’s a devotion that Ferguson and his teammates can’t — and would not want to — ignore.
“There’s not too many teams that have the type of fans we have,” Ferguson said. “Some teams have fair-weather fans, but Broncos fans are through and through.”
Which makes it easy for Ferguson and John Lynch to turn the team’s Wednesday morning goal-line drills into a celebration of the team and the defense itself.
Throughout the practices, the crowd cheers for big plays on both side of the line of scrimmage, but it only seems to have pre-emptive cheers for the defense, standing and applauding it at times during last Saturday’s full-pads session and then yelling “De-fense! De-fense!” and “Go! Broncos!” during Wednesday morning’s practice.
“It was something me and John actually came up with,” Ferguson said. “We decided to make it a game atmosphere, to see if (the fans) were in regular-season form, and it seemed to work today.”
Of course it helps that the defense has Ferguson, the crown prince of fan participation, in its employ. If he’s near the fans when he’s standing on the sidelines during a training-camp practice, he’s usually trying to get them involved.
“I don’t know if the offense has the personalities for that,” Ferguson said. “I think we have a lot of guys on defense with that type of personality. First of all, on offense, you’ve got to think of who’s there. You’ve got people like Tom Nalen. He doesn’t talk to you guys (the media) anyway. So to think that Tom Nalen would go out and try to get the fans enthused about what the offense is doing — no. Slim chance.”
So with Ferguson’s encouragement, the fans will likely continue to root, root, root for the defense. (If they don’t tackle, it’s a shame; for it’s one, two, three downs and out, at the foot-ball game.)