While Sunday may be a day of rest for some people, Mike Shanahan and the Denver Broncos headed in the opposite direction, breaking out the full pads during the morning practice session.
Although the players had donned shoulder pads with shorts during the first three days of camp, today's full uniform set was specifically designed with one goal in mind – mental preparation.
"I only do that a couple times so guys really know the uniform code like we have to do on game day," Shanahan told reporters.
"If they have their shoulder pads on, everything is full speed. The only thing we don't do is tackle. When you don't tackle, you don't have to worry about anyone having a thigh bruise. That's one of the reasons we don't go in full pads because we don't hit below the waist."
Below the waist or not, there was still plenty of hitting. Just ask rookie Maurice Clarett, who was flattened by linebacker D.J. Williams in typical "Welcome to the NFL" fashion.
A Change of Heart?
According to a report published in the Denver Post, future Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice came dangerously close to opting out of his contract with the Broncos and calling an end to his illustrious 20-year career.
Scheduled to report for a 4:30 pm team meeting on Thursday, Rice had second thoughts, telephoning Mike Shanahan early that morning to voice his indecision on whether or not he should catch a flight to Denver or remain at his home near San Francisco.
Shanahan explained to Rice that he understood his feelings, and if he chose to retire he had his blessing, but reiterated that there was no truth to rumors that he would be cut or that he had no future with the Broncos.
The head coach went on to explain to Rice that he could in fact help the Broncos win, and asked that he call him back with an answer.
A few hours later Rice called and informed Shanahan that he would be on a 2:30 pm flight, arriving in Denver in time for the teams' second meeting at 7:00 pm.
"There was a very good possibility that I was not going to get on that plane," Rice told the Post. "There was weight on my shoulders. But then I started thinking that the hunger is still there and the flashes are still there. I started thinking about how much I enjoy football. I started thinking about my new teammates. I remembered that Mike Shanahan had stuck his neck out for me. And that I had signed a contract. I am going to honor that contract."
Although he may not be a familiar face among Broncos fans just yet, wide receiver Todd Devoe is quickly climbing his way up the ladder.
During the first three days of Training Camp the first-year receiver has stunned those in attendance with some beautiful one-hand bobble catches during team drills; today's coming down the right sideline.
Still not sure who he is, don't feel bad. Devoe spent his entire rookie season on the Baltimore Ravens practice squad after leading NFL Europe's Cologne Centurions with five touchdown receptions in 2004.
Who – Part II
For those of us concerned about a possible mid-season meltdown by punter Todd Sauerbrun, our prayers may have been answered. The Broncos appear to have the perfect insurance policy in seventh-round draft pick Paul Ernster, a Division I-AA All-American from Northern Arizona.
The rookie led the nation with a 47.8 yard average last season and has done exceptionally well going head to head with Sauerbrun during punting drills.
While his accuracy may not be on the same level at this stage, he's better than any of the punters Denver has had over the past few years and carries far less baggage into camp than the oft- troubled Sauerbrun.
Don't be surprised is Shanahan finds a roster spot for the youngster – just in case.
Michael John Schon has covered the National Football League and the Denver Broncos for the past nine years. As a member of the Pro Football Writers Association he has published and syndicated columns to both newspapers and magazines throughout the United States and Canada. His syndicated radio broadcast: "Schon Live" airs weekly on various radio stations around the country.
Schon can be reached at Schon@prostarmediagroup.net
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