ENGLEWOOD, Colo.—Louis Vasquez has arguably been John Elway's best free agent addition outside of Peyton Manning, since he was signed during the 2013 offseason. For the first time in his career, Vasquez enters this upcoming season as the elder statesman on the offensive line and the team's leader at the position.
On Saturday, Vasquez took time after practice to talk about training camp and how the offensive line is shaping up. Vasquez talked about how seriously he and his teammates took John Elway's clarion call for a "kicking and screaming" football team.
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“We took his warning," he said. "When times get bad and we're down, [when] we get punched and kick, what I and the O-line take from it is if we get punched and kicked, we're going to punch and kick back. If we go down, we're going to go down punching and kicking. The next day they're going to feel us. That's what I took out of it.”
In addition to his leadership along the O-line, Vasquez has also taken rookie guard Max Garcia under his wing in a mentoring role. Garcia has spent most the offseason and the early stages of camp backing Vasquez up at right guard.
"He's [Garcia] quick off the ball," Vasquez said. "He's powerful, strong and heavy-handed. He's a young guy. I've talked to [Offensive Line] Coach Clancy [Barone], and I kind of told him that I'm going to take him under my wing because I like what he has. He just needs to be coached and molded. If he continues to grow and develop as a player, he's going to be an elite guard in this league.”
High praise for a rookie just two practices into his first NFL training camp. However, Vasquez knows a little something about being a guard selected in the fourth round of the draft, only to become an All-Pro player. It's interesting that Vasquez pinned Garcia as a future elite guard in the NFL, as he played mostly center in college and it would seem his easiest path to starting with Denver would be at the center position.
The veterans along the O-line, as well as new offensive line coach Clancy Barone, have been working hard with the rookies. Vasquez talked about how steep the rookie learning curve can be.
“They're all just big eyed and bushy tailed, trying to take in any information they can," he said. "Whatever I'm saying, Coach Clancy's putting out there or even Ryan Harris—he's been around the league a number of years—anytime any one of has something to say, they're a sponge just trying to soak it in and apply it to themselves.”
How quickly can fans expect these young O-linemen to assimilate all the information and adjust to the speed of the NFL game?
"Everybody's different," Vasquez said. "Some guys pick it up quicker. Some guys need a little more time. It just depends on the individual.”
The key to a Broncos Super Bowl run starts and ends with the offensive line. Keeping Peyton Manning upright and picking up the zone blocking scheme to spur the running game will both be key to a successful season.
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