Practice this afternoon got a little wet and wild for the rookies, as what is becoming a training camp ritual got underway for the second consecutive year.
Under the smothering heat, the first-year Broncos stepped up to a patch behind the end zone that had been watered for the last several hours. One by one, they dove for loose footballs in a mud pit while the veterans sprayed them with hoses and doused them with buckets of water at the beginning of practice. Afterward, the rookies stood out in their mud-stained jerseys as they went about their normal practice routine.
The scorching heat probably made being soaking wet for the remainder of practice a little more bearable.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Newly signed wide receivers Britt Davis and Patrick Carter were already on the field for practice, and Jamal Williams made his return to the field, already lining up at nose tackle with the first unit for most of the 11-on-11 drills.
The rest of the first-team defense had Champ Bailey and Andre’ Goodman at corner with Renaldo Hill and Darcel McBath at safety, as Brian Dawkins sat out Thursday’s session. Justin Bannan — sporting a stylish mustache — and Ryan McBean were on either side of Williams on the front line, and Jarvis Moss, Mario Haggan, Wesley Woodyard and Robert Ayers stepped in at linebacker.
D’Anthony Batiste took first-team reps at left tackle alongside Zane Beadles, J.D. Walton, Chris Kuper and Ryan Harris on the offensive line. Lance Ball saw several first-team reps, and LenDale White took his first carries during team drills as a Bronco.
Early in team drills, Brady Quinn found Marquez Branson for a connection over the top of the defense, drawing loud applause from the crowd in attendance at Dove Valley.
During a red-zone drill, Quinn quickly found Ball out of the backfield, and the running back sprinted down the sideline for a touchdown. The score drew a shout of “Great play!” from Kyle Orton, while defensive coordinator Wink Martindale was less than pleased.
In the same red-zone drill, Orton bought time in the pocket before lofting a ball to the back corner of the end zone. Eddie Royal came sprinting toward the pass, diving for an acrobatic catch that sent him head over heels out of the back of the end zone. With NFL refs helping run practice, it was easy to determine whether the catch was a touchdown. The side judge ruled it a score, drawing complaints from Nate Jones — who was in coverage — and the rest of the defense on the sideline. The back judge came sprinting toward the play, however, blowing his whistle to overturn the call. He signaled that the ball touched the ground and it was an incomplete pass.
Moss found himself in space, 1-on-1 with Toney Baker after a handoff during 11-on-11 drills. The linebacker held his ground and made the open-field tackle, drawing cheers from his defensive teammates.
Orton launched a pass toward Brandon Lloyd on the sideline next to the crowd of onlookers at Dove Valley, and the leaping receiver came down with the ball with Goodman in tight coverage. The ref signaled that it was a completion, drawing raucous cheers from the crowd.
The team worked on a two-minute drill toward the end of practice, with the first-team offense and defense facing off. In the drill, Champ Bailey appeared to have an interception, but Head Coach Josh McDaniels signaled that he had blown the play dead after a sack — keep in mind defensive players can’t really tackle the quarterback during training camp — so the pick was null and void.
A couple plays later, Orton lofted a pass toward Daniel Graham, who jumped between two defenders to come down with the ball. Flags were thrown on the play — pass interference on Darcel McBath — so the penalty was declined and the offense kept moving.
Shortly thereafter, Orton dropped back and fired a strike through the defense to Royal in the back of the end zone for the game-winning touchdown, garnering a celebratory offensive huddle in the end zone and giving Royal a little redemption for the incompletion earlier during the red-zone drill.
Then a new group of offensive and defensive players ran in to take their turn at the two-minute drill. Tim Tebow stepped in under center. His first pass came flying toward Demaryius Thomas on the sideline, but Tony Carter snuck in and snatched the ball from the 6-foot-3 receiver’s hands for an interception, ending the drill and giving the defense the victory.
The veterans continued to shout, “Get on it!” when the rookies didn’t pick up the ball right away after diving in the muddy patch behind the end zone.
Kyle McCarthy and Seth Olsen drew the loudest applause from the veterans, who approved of their intensity when diving for the loose ball. Riar Geer’s attempt actually drew boos from older players, who laughed and shouted, “You must do it again!” after the rookie tight end didn’t get muddy enough for their liking.
Even first-year coaches got involved in the festivities, as coaching assistants Craig Aukerman and Brian Callahan dove head-first into the mud.
Referees presided over practice, as a crew is in Denver to give a presentation Friday afternoon on new rule changes and points of emphasis for the 2011 season.
Rod Smith showed up at the end of the session and once again spent a long time talking with Thomas at the conclusion of practice.
TRAINING CAMP JUKEBOX
Wesley Woodyard’s playlist took center stage at the beginning of Thursday’s practice.
George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog” kicked things off during warmups, then most of the defense starting dancing as soon as the first few beats of California Swag District’s “Teach Me How to Dougie” kicked in. T.I.’s “I’m Back” rounded out Thursday’s selections.
Below are more photos from the session, with a full photo gallery to come featuring plenty of muddy rookies.
-Gray Caldwell, DenverBroncos.com
Tags: 2010, Training Camp