Here we are back in the press box at INVESCO Field at Mile High. It certainly feels like the season is almost here — and that the offseason flew by.
Fans have been pouring into the stadium since the gates opened at about 4:45, and Matt Prater, Britton Colquitt and Lonie Paxton are already on the field warming up for the night practice.
At the end of session, Floyd Little’s acceptance speech from the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony will be broadcast on the giant Thundervision screen. In the meantime, the players will don No. 44 decals, one of which is featured in the corner of the picture at the top of this blog.
We’ll have a live blog of the practice, so starting at about 6 p.m. MDT, keep refreshing this page for updates.
5:48 p.m. MDT: Head Coach Josh McDaniels just entered the field to a loud ovation.
5:52 p.m. MDT: All three quarterbacks have made their way onto the field, and the crowd got excited once again as their faces were shown on the Thundervision screen.
Speaking of thunder, there is a lightning warning for the area — hopefully it stays away and practice goes forward without any delays. We’ll keep you updated.
More and more players have made their way onto the field — mostly on the offensive side of the ball. The defense is apparently going for a fashionably late entrance.
5:57 p.m. MDT: Looks like rookie haircuts have made their way to Dove Valley. Riar Geer was just on the big screen without his helmet on — he’s got some sleek zebra stripes. Oh, there’s another on the screen — Zane Beadles is missing a nice stripe down the middle of his head.
6:01 p.m. MDT: Robert Ayers elicited a loud cheer from the crowd as he made his way onto the field. The team has started special teams drills, with Perrish Cox, Cassius Vaughn and Alphonso Smith splitting return duties.
6:11 p.m. MDT: Yep, as the players have their helmets off for a stretching session, you can see there are plenty of rookie haircuts. Tim Tebow might have it worst — he’s got a Friar Tuck thing going, with the top of his head shaved but the rest left intact. The front of Eric Olsen’s head is shaved, but his long hair is still there in the back. Kind of like a really intense version of a mullet.
6:17 p.m. MDT: Kyle Orton and quarterbacks coach Ben McDaniels are throwing deep passes to linebackers and defensive backs, while Brady Quinn and Tim Tebow are passing to wide receivers, tight ends and running backs.
6:21 p.m. MDT: The attendance has been announced as more than 14,000 fans — a record crowd for a Broncos practice.
6:25 p.m. MDT: With Knowshon Moreno, Correll Buckhalter, LenDale White and Spencer Larsen sitting out tonight’s practice, there are just three running backs working with position coach Eric Studesville. Lance Ball, Bruce Hall and Toney Baker will get plenty of reps this evening.
6:37 p.m. MDT: 7-on-7 has started. Kyle Orton is in the shotgun, and finds a diving Brandon Lloyd in the middle of the field in front of a fast-closing Champ Bailey. Now Brady Quinn is in and immediately finds Marquez Branson for a completion. Now it’s Tim Tebow’s turn — looks like each quarterback is taking one rep at a time. The rookie just found Brandon Stokley for a completion after firing a pass between the hands of Alphonso Smith who missed the interception.
6:40 p.m. MDT: Quinn is back in for his second rep, and he squeezed the ball in tight coverage past Nick Greisen for a completion to Eddie Royal. The quarterbacks have been on top of things to start the drill. Kyle Orton is back under center with Matthew Willis, Royal and Demaryius Thomas out wide. He went for a quick dump-off to Daniel Graham.
6:42 p.m. MDT: There still hasn’t been an incompletion in the first set of 7-on-7s, as Orton just found Jabar Gaffney for a reception, and followed it up with a deep completion to Graham.
6:44 p.m. MDT: Tebow just threw the first incompletion of the drill, looking toward Lance Ball. Now it’s Quinn’s turn, and he connected with Royal, who sprinted between defenders after the catch for a touchdown.
6:46 p.m. MDT: Tebow just lofted a pass to Demaryius Thomas in the back of the end zone, but referees signaled that the rookie receiver didn’t get both feet in bounds for the touchdown. Orton followed that up by squeezing a pass between defenders for another touchdown to Royal.
6:54 p.m. MDT: The team just started a live goal-line drill. Marquez Branson is in at fullback, and the handoff goes to Lance Ball, who is stopped at the 1-yard line. On second down, Ball is stopped at the line of scrimmage for no gain. Third down will bring another running play, as no receivers are out wide. The defense holds yet again, so the offense’s drive comes to an end.
6:56 p.m. MDT: Brady Quinn is now in the game, and he hands off to Toney Baker, who is stopped short of the goal line. Eric Decker limps toward the sideline after the play.
The crowd at INVESCO is doing the wave.
7:00 p.m. MDT: There are now more than 20,000 fans at INVESCO Field at Mile High, with more filing in as practice continues.
7:02 p.m. MDT: The offense and defense are now facing off in 11-on-11 situations. Orton connected with Brandon Lloyd’s back shoulder for a long completion on first down, but the next play is second-and-5, just so the teams can get a feel for what plays would be called in different situations. Next up is a third-and-1 play, which is a first-down run by Ball before the back was stopped by Brian Dawkins.
7:04 p.m. MDT: Now it’s Tebow’s turn under center, and the first play of the drive is a designed quarterback run. In fact, that was the only play of the drive, as Orton jogs back into the huddle.
7:08 p.m. MDT: Quinn’s first play in the huddle was a fake handoff to Bruce Hall, followed by a deep bomb to Lloyd, who made a leaping catch before launching the ball all the way back to the line of scrimmage in celebration. It earned the receiver a high five from Orton on the sideline.
7:21 p.m. MDT: Baker just took a handoff from Tebow for a big rush down to the 10-yard line. The following play was a deep bomb from the rookie down the sideline to Demaryius Thomas for a touchdown, bringing the entire offense sprinting to the end zone for a celebratory huddle.
7:26 p.m. MDT: As practice continues, Floyd Little’s enshrinement speech is about to begin.
7:34 p.m. MDT: Robert Ayers just battled past his blocker into the backfield for a sack. Well, a hypothetical sack, at least. No one is hitting the quarterback, of course.
7:40 p.m. MDT: Practice is about to come to an end, and the offense just practiced a Hail Mary situation — and Orton completed the bomb to Lloyd in the end zone. In real time, Floyd Little just finished his enshrinement speech. It will be played on the big screen at the conclusion of practice.
I’m headed down to the field for interviews. Look for a top story on the day’s events in a little while.
-Gray Caldwell, DenverBroncos.com