Pads and Full Contact

Day 3 of the Denver Broncos Training Camp brings out John Elway, full pads and full contact.

A sea of navy blue and orange jerseys worn by hundreds of Broncos fans greet the eyes on day three of Broncos training camp at Dove Valley. Because today was the first practice with pads and full contact the fans at the morning practice were noticeably more vocal than in the past few days, clapping loudly and shouting encouragement with renewed energy to their favorite players. Hoots and hollers abound. Kids clamoring for autographs thrusting footballs, pennants, and programs at the players as they enter the field. Also present were more media watching from the sidelines, direct morning sunlight in their faces, and an increased number of VIP's and players' families. Coach Shanahan seems relaxed, taking time to bend down and speak quietly to several players as they go through their morning stretches.

John Elway is standing on the sidelines with his entourage, including two of his very tall blond teenagers, a couple of their friends, and a security presence. He playfully roughhouses with the kids, wrestling and throwing the football. Jessie, his teenage daughter throws a better spiral than her brother and gloats playfully over him. Every few minutes someone approaches John with a handshake and pat on the back. He is cordial before turning his attention back to the field. Surely he must be experiencing a barrage of emotion as he watches former teammates and rookies run plays.

Asked by Coach Shanahan to speak to the team this morning before practice, John spent a few moments reminiscing about his memories of training camp, the two-a-days and eventual daily grind which leaves most players with wobbly legs before it's over (no matter what shape they were in before arriving at camp), and left the team with a short motivational pep talk. The players were appreciative and so was Coach Shanahan, who remarked, "It was really nice of John to take the time to speak to the players. He is probably the best quarterback to ever play the game and about to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of fame, quite an accomplishment ."

The players were clearly beginning to settle-in to a tempo as a team, their comfort zones and confidence in each other improving with each successive practice. Jake Plummer seemed more focused and hit a number of the wide receivers and running backs with some dynamite bombs. If Danny Kanell's little finger was bothering him he sure didn't show it, firing the ball with speed and accuracy. Despite soreness and some stiff muscles, practice ran smoothly for both offense and defense.

The kickers, receivers, and punt return wannabee's of the Broncos' special teams unit ran through their paces without any one player standing out. This continues to be an area of concern for wide receiver Rod Smith—who would prefer the job go to someone else, but is willing to step-up if the coaches ask him to "be the man"—and to the coaches who are all too familiar with the impact special teams play in the final outcome of the season.

The one gloomy spot on the day was centered on the Bronco's #2 draft pick, Tatum Bell, who has yet to agree to terms with the team and sign a contract. Coach Shanahan's patience with him is growing thin. Tomorrow's practice is at Invesco Field, an experience the rookies and fans are sure to remember.

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