Mike Anderson has lined up as the first tailback in all of the Denver Broncos' early training camp practice drills, yet hardly anybody believes he can hold off the young legs chasing him for the starting spot.
Anderson, who will turn 32 shortly after the regular season starts, has paid close attention to the speculation that someone -- probably Tatum Bell -- will unseat him as the starter sometime in the preseason.
"I see that," Anderson said. "I've been seeing it. It's all good though.
"It doesn't necessarily bother me, but it motivates me. If they're going to keep writing it, keep writing it. I need that motivation."
Anderson is proven in the Broncos offense, which can't be said about the others. Griffin and Bell have shown flashes with the Broncos, but not over a long period like Anderson. Dayne and Clarett are new to the team and longshots to push for a starting job right away.
But Anderson is a tough runner the Broncos can count on. Anderson said his experience was his biggest strength in the competition to start at tailback.
"I know this offense inside and out," said Anderson. "I know fullback and tailback. I know the line, how they're blocking, because when you play fullback you learn the line scheme. You learn the whole gamut of how the offense works. That experience is priceless."
Anderson rushed for 1,487 yards as a rookie in 2000. He hasn't been Denver's featured back since. He had a chance last season to start at tailback because he was having a good preseason, but then he tore groin muscles covering a punt in Denver's second-to-last preseason game and missed the season.
Anderson wants his chance this year and he's ready for it.
"Good things come to those who wait," Anderson said. "I've been real patient and just over the years some mishaps and some setbacks, and that's part of life. I'm still here and I'm out there now, and I'm happy."
Bell is the player the Broncos probably want to have a great camp and lock up the starting spot. He has breakaway speed Denver didn't have at tailback last season after trading Clinton Portis and was impressive at times as a rookie last season. But he also had trouble holding onto the ball and dealt with many nagging injuries, which he'll have to prove won't be problems again this year.
Anderson has been the top back during practice but Bell has been splitting first-team reps and he wants the chance to be the featured back.
"I feel like I'm right in the mix for starting," Bell said. "I'm not going to say I'm the starter; they keep telling us there's not a starter. I'm going to keep that mind frame until (Broncos coach Mike Shanahan announces) the starter."
CAMP CALENDAR: Camp opened July 29 for rookies and veterans; the Broncos will hold joint practices with the Texans in Houston Aug. 10-11; camp closes on Aug. 18.
--Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said he thought this year's schedule, which includes Super Bowl participants Philadelphia and New England, might be the toughest since he took over as head coach in 1995.
"There's not a team on our schedule anybody would say 'That's a gimme,'" Shanahan said.
-- Cornerback Darrent Williams, Denver's second-round pick, was one of three draftees that signed the day the Broncos reported to training camp. He said he wasn't concerned that he would be a holdout.
"Not really," Williams said. "I knew everything was going to get taken care of."
Denver did not have a holdout this season. Running back Tatum Bell held out for the first few days of camp last year over a contract dispute.
-- Punter Todd Sauerbrun, who the Broncos traded for this offseason, is not speaking to the media. Coach Mike Shanahan attempted to speak on behalf of his punter to let people know how he's doing.
"The leg's fine, I've been working out the last few weeks in Denver, I feel very good about myself that I can just focus on my job and just show what I can do on the football field and I don't get myself in trouble," Shanahan said.
-- Receiver Darius Watts, who needs a strong camp to lock up the third receiver position after fading late last season, made a great play during the first practice of camp. He and cornerback Lenny Walls leaped for a deep pass, it was batted in the air and Watts hauled it in as he came down.
"Anytime you make a big play like that, that's bringing your confidence level up a notch," Watts said.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I always try to be perfect. Anything less, I'm not really satisfied." -- Cornerback Champ Bailey.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL -
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Danny Kanell vs. Matt Mauck vs. Bradlee Van Pelt for backup QB -- Each quarterback has had up and down moments. Denver's entire offense struggled early in camp against its defense, and the backup quarterbacks weren't an exception. Van Pelt has taken a slight edge over Mauck for the No. 3 spot behind Kanell after outperforming Mauck in the team's offseason camps.
OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Stephen Alexander and Jeb Putzier will battle for the starting tight end job. Putzier is expected to be the starter for the season opener, but Alexander's all-around game has impressed the Broncos.
Jeremy LeSueur opened up camp as the team's nickel cornerback but he'll be challenged. Rookie Darrent Williams is a playmaker and he'll get a chance to compete for the job. Another rookie, Domonique Foxworth, has been very steady in the early days of camp.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: CB Champ Bailey -- After struggling at times last year, Bailey made a big statement the first few days of camp. He had a one-handed interception and made two incredible athletic plays to dive and break up passes during one practice.
Bailey, who still made the Pro Bowl last season, has said he's more comfortable in his second Broncos season, and the coaches want him to play more relaxed.
"Just be Champ Bailey and that'll be fine, because we got 10 other guys," defensive coordinator Larry Coyer said.
ROOKIE REPORT: CB Darrent Williams has made some plays and has a swagger that is rare for a rookie. He'll take chances though, and the coaching staff will want to make sure he doesn't take too many. ... CB Domonique Foxworth hasn't made a ton of plays but he hasn't been beaten much either. He's smart and will pick up his assignments very quickly.
... CB Karl Paymah has had some struggles early in camp as his fellow rookie cornerbacks have made plays. Paymah is very fast and should continue to improve.
... RB Maurice Clarett has blended in with his teammates. He's fifth on the depth chart but should get chances to move up during the preseason.
... OL Chris Myers has been working at center for most of camp. But part of his strength is his versatility. He played every line position in college. ... P Paul Ernster actually out-punted Todd Sauerbrun on the first day of camp with high, hanging kicks. His best chance to make the team, however, is as a kickoff specialist.
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