And here we go. The Broncos’ 2012 training camp kicked off Thursday morning to a raucous — and record-setting — crowd at Dove Valley. Officially, 4,372 people gathered around the practice fields to soak in the first session of training camp — a Dove Valley record.
The sky was clear, it was hot — but not too hot, about 80 degrees — and the players were fired up. In other words, the perfect atmosphere to kick off camp.
Before we get started, wanted to throw out a little piece of trivia. Or rather, ask you to take a wild guess at the answer.
Who were the first three players to take the field Thursday morning?
The answer will be revealed later on in the blog.
As for attendance, the only player absent from practice was wide receiver Brandon Stokley, who had the flu. Limited in practice today were defensive tackle Justin Bannan (calf) and defensive end Jamie Blatnick (ankle).
WELCOME, NO. 18
The loudest cheers of the day came when quarterback Peyton Manning jogged out from the locker room and made his way onto the field to kick off his first training camp practice as a Bronco.
Throughout the morning, all eyes seemed to be on Manning. As soon as practice started, the team went right into a team walkthrough. The first play of the day was a completion from Manning to fullback Chris Gronkowski, drawing more exuberant cheers. When Manning took off from the pocket on a scramble a few plays later, it felt like a game day the cheers got so loud.
“I kind of liked when he ran and did a little stiff arm,” rookie Ronnie Hillman said after practice. “They all got crazy. That was pretty funny. He could run faster than I thought he could.”
As always at Broncos camp, there were a wide variety of jerseys, from old school (Tom Jackson, Randy Gradishar, Steve Atwater) to new school (Manning, Von Miller, Demaryius Thomas), and of course there were plenty of No. 7s. But this year there were even a few Manning Colts jerseys sprinkled in the crowd.
Needless to say, the Broncos’ newest signal caller is plenty popular.
LINE ‘EM UP
During training camp, there’s no official depth chart, so the first-unit offense and defense might vary from day-to-day. But for day one of camp, here were the first-team groups.
Ryan Clady, Zane Beadles, J.D. Walton, Manny Ramirez and Orlando Franklin made up the offensive line, as Chris Kuper continues his recovery from a Week 17 injury. Manning was quarterback and Willis McGahee joined him at running back in the backfield. Occasionally the team went with two receivers — Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas — and two tight ends — Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen. When there was a third receiver in, it was Andre Caldwell. When there was a fullback, it was Gronkowski.
On defense, Elvis Dumervil, Ty Warren, Mitch Unrein and Robert Ayers were the linemen. Wesley Woodyard, Joe Mays and Von Miller manned the linebacker positions. Champ Bailey, Tracy Porter, Mike Adams and Rahim Moore rounded out the unit in the secondary.
- During one-on-ones between wide receivers and defensive backs, Caldwell drew the first big cheers from the fans. The receiver beat cornerback Tony Carter deep to the end zone, hauling in a long touchdown pass much to the crowd’s delight. It was just the first of several big plays for Caldwell, as he hauled in a deep pass from Manning on the sideline later during team drills.
- Later in practice, Carter had a big play of his own, reeling in an over-the-shoulder interception in the end zone.
- Shortly after Caldwell’s catch, Greg Orton sprinted deep as well, making a diving, fingertip catch for a touchdown on a pass from Manning.
- The third big play from that one-on-one drill came when Thomas caught a mid-range pass before turning the corner and sprinting past Porter to the end zone. Both men patted each other’s helmet after the play.
- During 7-on-7s, quarterback Brock Osweiler connected on a pretty pass down the sideline to wide receiver Jason Hill, who hauled it in past a leaping Quinton Carter and made his way into the end zone.
- A few other big plays included a Bailey breakup of a Manning pass intended for Decker, followed later a Decker sideline catch in front of Bailey. Defensive tackle Sealver Siliga batted down a pass at the line during the final portion of team drills.
- Decker, Porter, Syd’Quan Thompson and Drayton Florence took turns fielding punts during special teams drills.
- During those special teams drills, Knowshon Moreno worked on a separate field with all four quarterbacks. Manning, Caleb Hanie, Brock Osweiler and Adam Weber all worked on first avoiding pressure then placing a pass directly into Moreno’s hands.
- Denver’s top pick, Derek Wolfe, saw some second-team reps on defense during Thursday’s opening practice.
- To answer the question from the top of the blog, the first three players to take the practice field, in order, were Jason Hill, Lonie Paxton and Brock Osweiler.
The team will be back on the field for a walkthrough closed to the public this evening, and we’ll bring you more coverage. The next open practice is tomorrow at 2:20 p.m. MDT.
A photo gallery from this morning’s opening practice has been posted — but it will be updated again shortly. Team photographer Eric Lars Bakke will provide exclusive photos from the action during practice, and we’ll add them to the gallery. This paragraph will be updated when the gallery is updated.
Tags: 2012 Training Camp