The 2010 season came one step closer Sunday morning with the first practice of training camp. A Dove Valley training camp record crowd of 3,103 arrived early for opening day, with some folks lining up to see the orange and blue as early as 4:45 a.m. Mind you, that’s four hours prior to the start of the session.
The first player on the field? Kyle Orton, to a loud applause from the crowd. He was followed by Matt Prater, then Tim Tebow and Daniel Graham walked out together.
U2′s “Where the Streets Have No Name” marked the official start of camp, as the air horn blew and players headed to individual drills.
With music blaring and cheers of “TEE-BOW!” “CHAMP!” and “ED-DEE!” ringing out, the team kicked things off.
The first day was dampened a bit, however, when Knowshon Moreno was carted off the field and Correll Buckhalter walked inside the facility accompanied by a trainer.
Head Coach Josh McDaniels said he didn’t have any updates on either back’s status yet.
“Certainly you don’t want to see two of your guys that you really count on at the same position come off the field on the first day of training camp,” McDaniels said. “We know that’s part of the game and that’s why you have to have people behind them. We’ll see what the timetable may be or the diagnosis. I’m not sure where that’s at or how severe any of that is. Hopefully we’ll get them out there at some point, whenever they’re healthy.”
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
During 11 on 11 drills, the first unit defense had Ronald Fields in the middle of the defensive line, flanked by Ryan McBean and Justin Bannan. Elvis Dumervil, D.J. Williams, Mario Haggan and Robert Ayers lined up at linebacker, and Champ Bailey, Andre’ Goodman, Brian Dawkins and Renaldo Hill made up the secondary.
On offense, Tyler Polumbus was at left tackle, with Zane Beadles at left guard, J.D. Walton at center, Chris Kuper at right guard and Ryan Harris a welcome sight back at right tackle. Kyle Orton was at quarterback and Daniel Graham was at tight end, with Kolby Smith at running back with Moreno and Buckhalter out of practice. The receivers switched in and out, but Eddie Royal, Brandon Lloyd and Jabar Gaffney got the most work. Marquez Branson also subbed in as a second tight end on several plays.
Throughout individual drills for tight ends, Daniel Graham reiterated why he’s the leader of the pack. In one drill, the tight ends were supposed to lift a blocking sled in the air before pushing it forward. Graham pushed it so hard that at the end of his rep, the sled flipped upside down. After seeing that display, Branson took his turn, flipping the sled at the end before letting loose a “Woooo!”
The running backs practiced getting physical during their drills, attacking blocking dummies to work on initiating contact.
Typically players run through drills the exact same way, one after the other, to make sure they get the technique just right. The defensive linemen ran a drill where the only goal was to get past the blocking dummy — no matter the technique. Each lineman used a move they’ve been successful with in the past, whether it was a swim move, spin or bull rush.
During wide receiver versus defensive back 1-on-1s, the first matchup belonged to Eddie Royal and Champ Bailey. Bailey tipped Orton’s throw, which Royal nearly caught, but the pass fell incomplete. Later in the drill, the two faced off again. This time Royal cut his route in front of Bailey, hauling in the sharp pass from Orton. That drew a “Nice, Eddie Royal!” from the quarterback.
On the first play of 7-on-7s, Brian Dawkins tipped a pass and nearly hauled it in before it hit the ground. Immediately he dropped to the ground for 10 pushups, as he didn’t snare the interception. Afterward he jumped up with a huge fist pump to the sky, drawing a reaction from the already amped-up crowd.
Toward the end of the final offense versus defense drill, Eric Decker ran deep down the sideline with Perrish Cox in tight coverage. As the ball came toward the receiver, Cox seemed to grab a little jersey to ensure the ball fell incomplete. On the adjacent field, special teams players and coaches signaled for a flag as the two jogged back toward the huddle.
The defensive backs sported a new look — personalized towels tucked in their waist. Two of the more notable towels belonged to Dawkins — inscribed with “Weapon X,” of course — and Nate Jones, or as his towel says, “Nasty Nate.”
To say fans were excited to see the team’s newest first-round picks would be an understatement. Every catch Demaryius Thomas made and every throw Tebow made were met with raucus applause throughout practice. So when Tebow took off running during a couple offense versus defense drills, you can imagine the crowd lost it a little.
After a deep Tebow completion to a leaping Matthew Willis, the crowd gave a long ovation marked by the waving of a couple University of Florida flags. When the noise died down, however, a lone “Roll Tide!” echoed from an apparent Alabama fan in the end zone. It seems even as a Bronco his Florida fans — and rivals — will follow.
Early in practice, the three quarterbacks threw to four receivers — Gaffney, Lloyd, Royal and Brandon Stokley — while the rest of the group worked on special teams drills.
Off to the side, Lonie Paxton, Britton Colquitt and Matt Prater practiced snapping, holding and kicking field goals, respectively, through a much skinnier set of uprights.
TRAINING CAMP JUKEBOX
After U2 kicked things off, Club Bronco got hyped with Eminem’s “Not Afraid,” Jay-Z’s “Can I Get A…” and Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.”
Below are more pictures from Sunday’s morning session. The team is back on the field this evening at 5:30 p.m. MDT.
-Gray Caldwell, DenverBroncos.com