When you’re a team captain and you haven’t practiced in nearly 10 months, you get your own cheering section upon your return. Rod Smith’s just happened to be the defensive backfield.
The cornerbacks and safeties froze their own warmups early Wednesday afternoon, turned to the adjacent field, watched as the veteran wide receiver successfully leapt skyward for a pass and promptly broke up in a cacophony of hoots, hollers, and a chant that sounded more like a heartfelt ode from the South Stands than a bunch of teammates clowning around.
“We love Rod! We love Rod!”
Sure, it might have been half-joking, but the underlying sentiment was all heart. The Broncos’ longtime leader was back on the field, and even though he remained a vocal presence in the locker room and on the sidelines throughout his convalescence and rehabilitation from hip surgery, he was nevertheless missed in the practice-time milieu, where his teaching and leadership was typically most evident.
“It’s awesome,” John Lynch said. “He’s one of the great teammates I’ve ever been around. I’m glad he was around and stayed vocal and a leader when he was hurt, because he’s kind of the pulse of this team; the heart and soul, whatever you want to call it.
“It’s a comforting feeling when he’s around, but whenever he’s back on the field — I don’t know whether it’s this week or whenever, that place will erupt, and it’s going to be awesome.”
Smith is still listed on the physically unable to perform list, and the Broncos now have three weeks to decide whether to move him to the 53-man roster or place him on injured reserve, which would end his season.
Those, however, were concerns for future days. For this one, the Broncos were simply giddy to have their captain back.