The team kicked off the first day of 11 days of passing camp on Tuesday, and Matt Prater and Josh Barrett spoke with the media afterward. Here are the highlights of their press sessions.
The second-year safety said this stretch of camps is a little different than the first two mini-camps. The main difference is it feels like they’re starting to be able to play football a little more smoothly instead of learning something new at every turn.
“It’s definitely a more comfortable stage to be in,” he said. “You’re picking up things a lot quicker, there’s not as much lag time between when you learn something and then when you’re able to apply it on the field. So having that, it’s helpful.”
But Barrett said there’s certainly still learning going on. For him and the other defensive backs in particular, some of that learning has come from Brian Dawkins.
“I just try to take in little things,” Barrett said. “You don’t even have to ask questions, but through his actions, through his demeanor you can pretty much pick up on a lot of stuff.”
One of the things the secondary is learning about is bringing a game-time work ethic to practice. Barrett said the defensive secondary talks every day about how unacceptable the number of takeaways was last year. Now they’re taking steps to make sure they force more turnovers and make more game-changing plays in 2009.
“We’ve got drills that are just for stripping the ball, just for working on what we call low-impact angles, where you’re not going to be the guy maybe to make the first hit, but you might be the first guy to be able to get a shot at the ball to get the ball loose,” he explained. “So certain things like that, aggressiveness like that is what we really need to work on.”
Prater’s talking points are after the jump.
Prater said he takes last year as a learning experience, and he’ll do certain things this season to make sure his leg doesnt get fatigued by the end of the year. One thing he’ll do is take a few less kicks here and there, from warm-ups to after practice during the week, to try to stay fresh. He has already taken steps this offseason to make sure he’s rejuvenated come the start of the 2009 campaign.
“I took about a month off to try to freshen up my leg and get some of that pop back that I had early in the year and kind of faded off towards the end,” Prater said.
The “pop” seems to be back — he said field goal drills went really well today, even in windy conditions, and he knocked them through the uprights as far back as 62 yards.
That’s a good thing heading into this round of camps, and with training camp around the corner, Prater has shown the coaches enough that there hasn’t been a kicker brought in to compete.
“That just shows me they have confidence in me, as well as I do in myself,” Prater said. “That means a lot, especially with a new head coach in. They brought in a lot of new guys, and they didn’t bring a kicker. So that’s pretty confidence-building for me, and kind of flattering as well.”
Prater said he hasn’t changed his mechanics much — after watching tape he realized that most all of his mistakes were based on fatigue, and some were mental errors like over-compensating for wind. One thing that Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer has asked Prater to change is his stance on field goal attempts, however. He wants his body to end up a little more over his front foot and over the ball, “so instead of stepping into the kick I’ll kind of fall into it.”
The kicker said he’s already very comfortable with the new technique, but the transition is being made even easier with the skill and consistency of long snapper Lonie Paxton.
“Every field goal snap he snaps, it makes the holder’s job easier and it makes it easier for me,” Prater explained. “The holder just puts it down — the laces are already there — they just have to put it down and lean it. Punt snaps, too, he gets them back there quick and consistent. I don’t want to jinx him, I should knock on wood, but Coach McDaniels said he hasn’t had a bad snap in nine years. So that’s pretty impressive.”
Those are the main points from today’s media session. We’ll be back with a similar set-up tomorrow, then Thursday’s practice is completely open to the media, so we’ll have coverage ranging from a blog notebook from practice to a Broncos TV piece to video and audio of player interviews. Stay tuned.
-Gray Caldwell, DenverBroncos.com