ENGLEWOOD, Colo—The Denver Broncos spent their 2015 first round pick on Missouri outside linebacker Shane Ray, but he entered the draft with an injured foot, which he sustained in the Citrus Bowl. He was unable to participate in rookie mini-camp and was relegated to the classroom for the past week of organized team activities.
That all changed today, as Ray was able to join his teammates out on the grass at OTAs, albeit in a limited mode. The Broncos training staff was able to get Ray’s foot to a point where the coaches felt comfortable letting him practice today.
"They [the training staff] didn’t want to rush me back and cause more injury," Ray said following today’s practice. "They wanted to make sure that when I started getting work that my foot was feeling good and it wasn’t going to have any setbacks. We’ve got plenty of time so today what I was able to do was just pretty much they kind of let me go a little bit, let me get some work in because they felt like I was progressing well and throughout the week I’ll be doing more work."
Last week, Ray talked about how excited he was to join the Broncos veterans at OTAs and the bittersweet element of having to sit out of the action on the practice field. However, his time off-the-field gave him ample opportunity to hone his craft in the classroom, get mental reps and pick the brains of Pro Bowl outside linebacker tandem Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware.
“It’s very valuable for me,” Ray said last week. “I’m in the film room with my coach as much as I can be. I’m asking questions to Von and DeMarcus every day about what’s going on, what they’re doing, what they’re seeing, what they’re feeling. [I’m] doing my own studying. I’m getting just as much work as if I was out there doing the physical [work].”
With the Broncos having been so acutely stricken by the injury bug early this offseason, losing third round tight end Jeff Heuerman and Pro Bowl left tackle Ryan Clady to torn ACLs, getting Ray back on the field had to feel good. As defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said last week, he’s going to find a way to let his top-three pass rushers get after the quarterback this fall.
“We’ll put our best players on the field, like I’ve said before,” Phillips said following practice last Friday. “I don’t know if you remember at San Diego, we had three outside backers that could really play, and we played them a lot on third downs, all three of them. At different places I’ve been it’s: get your best players out there, your best rushers out there in third-down situations. There are a lot of different coverages and all those other things—we can think of all those things, but it’s the players that fit it and what they can do. That’s what we’re going to try to do with them. We can’t rush them all outside, though. We’ll work something out.”