They can't all make the team. It's a stubborn numbers game that the Denver Broncos 2017 class of rookies — both drafted and undrafted — have to come to terms with.
There's no getting around it.
The Broncos will go from 90 players on the roster, and whittle it down to 53 on the active roster and 10 on the practice squad. It will ultimately leave 27 players without a chair when the music stops.
However, as the rookies hit the practice field for the first time, they do so knowing that each one of them has a chance to shine and stick in the NFL, even if it's with another team. Such was the message Head Coach Vance Joseph delivered over the last three days of rookie mini-camp.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1777865-film-room-garett-bolles-v... “Every kid can’t make your team, but, when you’re on the field, you’re playing for yourself in training camp," Joseph said on Saturday following practice. "You’re playing for every team in the league. So if you can play, someone will find you. That’s the message. Stay engaged and learn what to do so you can be your best on game-day. That’s what counts for the preseason.”
The Broncos selected eight rookies in the 2017 NFL Draft and signed 16 college free agents. They're all under contract, except for third-round wideout Carlos Henderson, who is still negotiating some of the fine print. Nevertheless, Henderson signed a waiver so that he could hit the grass with his teammates.
The one message that ran like a thread through the remarks of Denver's rookies on Saturday was sense of gratitude. This class of rookies are humble and appreciative of this rare opportunity to make it as a pro.
“Just putting on that helmet," first-round tackle Garett Bolles said. "When you have the Bronco on the side of your helmet, that’s awesome. When you put on the blue and orange, that’s special. We have the greatest fans, everyone says, but when you put on that helmet, you have to wear it proud. You’ve got to be proud to be a Bronco and I’m just so grateful to be here. We have such great teammates and it’s such a great organization. It’s a dream come true to be here.”
From the first round pick all the way down to the sixth-rounder, De'Angelo Henderson, this group is humble but that doesn't mean they aren't hungry. These guys are honed in and soaking up every detail they can.
“Coming from college, you know college. When you come to the NFL, it’s a whole different level," De'Angelo Henderson said. "Just increasing my knowledge. Just being a sponge to everybody. Just soaking up as much knowledge as I can from the older guys and the guys that have been around for a while.”
For tight end Jake Butt, who was drafted in the fifth round but is still recovering from a torn ACL, he had to soak in as much as he could from the meeting rooms. As difficult as it was, he had to satisfy himself with mental reps mostly when the rookies finally hit the grass.
“It’s really tough," Butt said. "Being out there, my adrenaline is still pumping. I’m so locked in and I know what I’m doing out there on every play, I just can’t go out there and do it. That’s tough being a competitor and being a player that wants to help the team win. I’m living through these guys out here. They’re having fun and they’re living out their dreams. I’m just helping where I can.”
Butt has already impressed the coaches with his business-like approach to rookie mini-camp. Vance Joseph has been struck by Butt's maturity.
“When you’re around Jake, you can see the maturity as far as the football player and the person," Joseph said. "In meetings, he’s in the front row. He’s taking every note. He’s a guy that’s played at a high level for a long time. We’re excited about Jake. He just needs time to get healthy.”
The diminutive Isaiah McKenzie was the second wideout the Broncos selected in the Draft, coming to Denver via the fifth round out of Georgia. The Broncos have a log-jam at wide receiver this year, but McKenzie knows that his ability in the third phase could be his best shot at sticking to the roster.
“I just have to come and do my best job," McKenzie said. "Play special teams, play offense and take advantage of every opportunity they give me. I'm just worried about getting on the field and doing my job the best that I can.”
16 undrafted rookies and eight draft picks. That's a lot of new faces. But the last three days of rookie mini-camp have afforded Joseph the opportunity to get a bead on what type of class he has to work with in his first year as a head coach in the NFL.
“It’s a mature group," Joseph said. "Everyone was up in their chair and taking notes and engaged. That’s important because most rookies don’t know what to expect. They`ll walk into meetings and they’re slumping in their seat and not taking notes. But this group, they were engaged in our conversation. That was impressive with these guys. It’s a good group. It’s a handpicked group for our football team. I’m impressed with them so far.”
Bottom line; these rookies have to make hay while the sun is shining. They will meet up with the veterans on Monday to complete Phase 2 of the Broncos offseason training program. On May 23, Phase 3 will begin, where the players can hit the grass in non-contact 11-on-11 drills, among other activities.
Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.