Just a quick smattering of images from Monday’s Shanahan Golf Classic, held at the Omni Interlocken Golf Club in Broomfield.
And one strictly self-indulgent shot …
Back on Tuesday when OTAs return.
The ninth OTA session ended just after midday Wednesday, and Sam Brandon’s teammates had all left for the locker room, to lift weights or to scarf down some lunch at the team’s cafeteria. Brandon, however, was going nowhere except back and forth, backpedaling, sprinting forward and moving laterally.
Just over six months after surgery to repair torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments, along with a microfracture procedure to help strengthen the knee.
Although he takes the field with his teammates at team camp, Brandon is still in the rehabilitation process. He can take part in individual and installation work but not in the team segments of the OTAs. His time to work, therefore, comes later as he builds up strength in his knee.
“This is my daily routine until I can transition back into doing on-the-field football stuff like everybody else is doing right now,” Brandon said. “It’s going well.”
Brandon is working to be ready by the start of training camp, although he couldn’t set a precise date to his expected return.
“I don’t know if there’s a target date,” Brandon said, “because a couple of weeks ago I went out and had a little bit of swelling, so I eased off. I just hope the swelling continues to stay down and that I can get stronger — which is the key, getting stronger in the weight room, to keep getting strength in my leg, my quad and my calf so it will reduce pressure on my knee.”
The swelling has gone down, and Brandon moved about the field smoothly on Wednesday. However, as he moves, the condition of his knee still weighs upon his mind.
“If you feel anything, your train of thought goes, ‘Oh my gosh,’” Brandon acknowledges. “But most of the time I can just go out there and it feels pretty smooth. It’s just once in while where you feel that tweak and you go, ‘Oh my gosh.’ But it feels really good.”
… Cecil Sapp’s primary position has been fullback for the last three years, but as the Broncos progress through OTAs, they’re using him as a running back. Wednesday, he lined up as a deep setback behind Kyle Johnson — the man with whom Sapp waged a spirited battle for the first-team fullback role last year. “They always told me to keep my mind open about playing tailback, and now I just have to learn both positions,” Sapp said. “I’ve been doing it ever since I transformed to fullback. Now, they really want me to play tailback. Hopefully I take this opportunity and run with it.” …
… Champ Bailey intercepted a pass for a second day in a row, nabbing a Patrick Ramsey toss that glanced off the hand of David Kircus …
… Brandon Marshall watched the practice in sweats, joining fellow receivers Glenn Martinez, Rod Smith and Brandon Stokley in the present-but-not-in-uniform category. Stokley jogged around the fields throughout the early stages of work, but also did some sprinting as he continues his recovery from Achilles tendon surgery …
… Curome Cox earned notice from assistant head coach Jim Bates after acrobatically swatting away a Cutler bullet to Stephen Alexander. “Hell of a play,” Bates said as he high-fived the defensive back.
More to come tomorrow; until then, adios.
A belated bon giourno from what is now a drenched Dove Valley, after a cold front dragged a line of thunderstorms that doused the Denver area throughout the afternoon with rain, wind and hail. None of the grape-sized hailstones fell at Broncos headquarters, and the foul weather didn’t arrive until the middle of the afternoon, well after the Broncos completed their first day of team camp and their eighth organized team activity of the offseason.
A few notes from the day’s work …
… This was my first full-practice glimpse at the Broncos, as reporters were permitted to watch practice, although the cameras were only allowed to shoot and roll through the first 10 minutes of the session …
… The man they call “Barbaro,” safety Nick Ferguson, probably turned in the play of the day with a leaping, contorting-in-midair interception during team work …
… Even without a helmet and shoulder pads, cornerback Champ Bailey looked like his usual self, intercepting a midway through the practice …
Greetings once again from the media room here at Broncos headquarters. It’s been about two hours since everyone left the field, and I’ve been busy working on a couple of stories from the day — and, later on, I’ll be putting together a video snapshot of the doings from here at Dove Valley.
For now, these notes:
… Head Coach Mike Shanahan expects wide receiver Rod Smith to return to the field by training camp. “That’s our goal — that the first time we start practice in July, he’s ready to go,” Shanahan said. “To do that, there’s going to be a lot of conditioning that goes on throughout the month of June through the middle of July. So hopefully when we strap it up for the first day of camp, he’ll be ready to go.”
… Assistant head coach Jim Bates expounded on the experiment of using safety Steve Cargile at weakside linebacker — which was in part due to his success on special-teams coverage units late last year. “It’s important that we’re able to fill our two-deep (roster) and get quality special teams guys,” Bates said. “He has the intelligence to play two positions.” …
… Kenard Lang practiced through sore shoulders, Head Coach Mike Shanahan said, and Bates noted that Nick Ferguson returned to practice. However, the rehabilitation work continued for Smith, Brandon Stokley, Matt Lepsis and Sam Brandon …
… Bates also said the rookie defensive linemen have “a lot of catching up to do,” adding, “Rookies are rookies, and just getting them lined up and getting them in their stance and in their initial steps takes longer for the rookies (on the line) than any other position. But also they should improve more than any of the other guys, given the ability level they have.” …
… It seemed like D.J. Williams answered as many questions about being tapped to lead the breakdown as he did about moving to middle linebacker. Perhaps it was because his first day as practice leader saw him brush aside Jarvis Moss’ efforts to open practice. “It’s the first day and we needed more intensity than that. I could tell he was a little nervous,” Williams said. “So I sent up one of our oldie-but-goodies, (David) Kircus. He’s always going to get up there and give you a good dance.”
… Wide receiver Brandon Marshall told media that he ran with the first team in Smith’s absence, but the main topic of conversation was his difficult offseason that has witnessed an arrest and the deaths of Damien Nash and Darrent Williams, both of whom were close friends of his. “I got in an incident with the law. We had two deaths. I’ve definitely grown up,” Marshall said. “It’s sad to say, but sometimes you have to bump your head or go through some things to actually learn, so I’m glad it happened now rather than down the road in my career, and I can guarantee that I’ll be on top of everything from here on out.”
And, in closing this entry, a few more shots:
Through the first seven games of the year, the Broncos defense had been blessed with relatively good health; aside from defensive end Courtney Brown’s knee problems that ended his season before it began, Denver’s defenders had only missed a game here and there.
Then came a game that would claim a multitude of Broncos to the bane of a footballer’s existence. One by one, Brandon, Ebenezer Ekuban, Patrick Chukwurah, Ian Gold, Nick Ferguson, John Lynch and Darrent Williams all hobbled from the field during a Nov. 5 win at Pittsburgh.
“I don’t think I can ever remember losing as many guys on one side of the football,” Head Coach Mike Shanahan said.
All but Brandon would be back within two games. The fifth-year safety, however, left Heinz Field on the back of a cart after colliding with Demetrin Veal during the fourth quarter.
“You could see it happen right in front of you,” Shanahan said the day after the injury. “It was just a freak injury and it’s really a shame, because he (had) really been playing well.”
“I felt the play, so I know what happened,” Brandon said at the time. “I could feel it. It was pretty painful.”
For the Broncos, it forced them to recalibrate their secondary. Curome Cox rose into Brandon’s “big-nickel” role, and then became a starter when Ferguson’s season ended two weeks later with a knee injury. By December, Domonique Foxworth was starting at strong safety, with Cox seeing substantial action as a fifth defensive back. They held their own.
But for Brandon, the injury was a crushing blow to what had been a promising season. A year earlier, his coaches concocted the “big nickel,” bringing the safety Brandon in as a fifth defensive back rather than using a third cornerback as is the standard for nickel packages. The strategy worked to perfection as the scheme helped defuse some star tight ends like San Diego’s Antonio Gates and Kansas City’s Tony Gonzalez.
Brandon’s first three NFL seasons witnessed him alternately gaining and losing traction in his bid for playing time; the “big nickel” offered him a clearly defined role, which he embraced this season.
“It’s mine, really. That’s what I want to say,” Brandon said in training camp. “I feel like it’s mine, so I’m real comfortable.”
Whether Brandon finds that comfort level upon his return is unknown, simply by the nature of the injury he incurred. Some players with surgically repaired ACLs regain their previous capabilities almost as soon as they step onto the field, as wide receiver Javon Walker and Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer did this past season. Others can take a year longer to regain their form, like Baltimore Ravens running back Jamal Lewis.
There’s no way of knowing until the contact work of training camp arrives in just over six months.
FINAL ANALYSIS: Finished the season with 15 total tackles — nine solo and six assists … In that fateful Steelers game, Brandon filled in for an injured Nick Ferguson and logged three tackles while forcing two fumbles (one on special teams ) … No tight ends scored touchdowns against the Broncos during the eight games in which Brandon played. (Antonio Gates’ two touchdowns against the Broncos at San Diego in December were the only ones by any tight ends against Denver all year.)
NEXT: Linebacker Keith Burns.
Sam Brandon’s season is over.
A Monday MRI confirmed the Broncos’ worst fears — that the fifth-year safety tore his anterior cruciate ligament on a collision with Demetrin Veal late in Sunday’s 31-20 win at Pittsburgh.
“You could see it happen right in front of you,” Head Coach Mike Shanahan said. “It was just a freak injury and it’s really a shame, because he’s really been playing well.”
Brandon knew immeditately that the injury was severe.
One of the more intriguing personnel-related storylines last season revolved around the playing time into which Sam Brandon grew during the 2005 season.
A year earlier, he’d seen limited defensive action in just two games — both blowouts — while playing in nine games on special teams, He logged no defensive statistics that season, representing a dramatic fall from the year before, when he’d made 57 total tackles and started 10 games.
As he entered 2005, he was a backup safety, just as he was the year before. But in the season-opening loss at Miami, injuries sprouted among the cornerbacks faster than weeds develop in a damp Florida garden. Brandon was forced into action at cornerback — and acquitted himself well under some dire circumstances.
Recalled Brandon: “I was covering tight ends all during camp last year and I guess when they put me in at corner vs. Miami, it was like, ‘This kid can make plays and hold his own at corner; maybe we should get him on the field a little more.’”
Enter the “big nickel.”