Rice, who wasn't even guaranteed a roster spot for his final season when he signed with the Broncos in May, was moved up from the No. 4 spot on the depth chart to No. 3 after Denver's first preseason game.
"I'm just going to take it and try to make the best of it," Rice said.
But the move was less of a promotion for Rice and more of a message to second-year receiver Darius Watts.
Watts dropped two passes and couldn't haul in another high pass in the end zone in Denver's first preseason game at Houston. He returned to practice two days later and found he was fourth on the depth chart behind Rod Smith, Ashley Lelie and Rice.
"I was on myself real hard," Watts said. "I had already cussed myself out so bad, what (the coaches) said was nice."
Watts then had three drops against San Francisco in Denver's second preseason game, although on one of those drops he got open and the pass was well under-thrown. He slipped coming back to the ball and couldn't catch it when he was on the ground.
Broncos coach Mike Shanahan wasn't that tough on Watts after the game against the 49ers, and focused on Watts getting open and the two catches he did have. But overall, the Broncos want to see Watts eliminate the mistakes.
Last season Watts had costly drops against Oakland, Atlanta and San Diego in losses. Watts, a second-round pick last year, started strong and faded in the second half of the season.
"The key to being a receiver is consistency," Shanahan said. "When he has that consistency he's going to play for us. Because nobody can touch him.
"He's going to have to focus on a day-to-day basis and show he deserves to be on the field." Rice caught one pass for eight yards in Denver's preseason game against his former team, the 49ers. He doesn't have the breakaway speed Watts has but can still get open and is reliable.
"I never think about what I have accomplished the year before and always feel I have to prove myself and I have to make the team," Rice said. "That's the attitude I took."
CAMP CALENDAR: The Broncos broke camp on Aug. 18.
--The Broncos are easing running back Quentin Griffin back to action. He had major knee surgery last season and was put on injured reserve, and the team held him out of its first two preseason games. Griffin could play in Denver's third preseason game.
"He's playing with more confidence which is great," Shanahan said. "So the last two exhibition games he'll get a lot of reps. I think the trainers were right with the way they've dealt with him. They said don't put too much pressure on him and don't put him in a game until he's ready."
--Cornerback Champ Bailey hasn't played in the preseason because of a hamstring injury. He has re-aggravated the injury a couple times during practice but the Broncos are not concerned about it lingering much longer. Bailey is expected to play in the Broncos' third preseason game.
"I don't think it's too serious but it makes no sense to take a chance," Shanahan said about the team's decision to hold him out of its second preseason game.
--Backup quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt, a fan favorite who played in college at Colorado State, had a very good preseason opener but struggled a bit in his second preseason game against San Francisco. Van Pelt's throws were often wild, although he did show his athletic ability by avoiding the rush a couple times and he ran for 37 yards.
"It's a great learning experience," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said.
--The Broncos, who struggled in the red zone all of last season, were disappointed when their starting offense stalled inside the red zone against San Francisco. Denver had a 13-yard run by Tatum Bell and a 3-yard touchdown run by Mike Anderson wiped out because of holding penalties.
"I was disappointed in that," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "When you're injured that's another thing. Courtney Brown (Denver's defensive end who has a dislocated elbow) is injured. That's a totally different scenario." -- WR Rod Smith, when talking about rookie RB Maurice Clarett, on the difference between being hurt and injured.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: WR Charlie Adams vs. CB Darrent Williams for the team's punt return spot. Adams has had a good camp and averaged 25.7 yards per punt return against San Francisco. Williams has had only 15 yards on five punt returns, but the Broncos are sticking with him. Denver plans on having Adams as Williams' backup if Adams makes the team as the fifth receiver. Williams' big-play ability means he'll be given every shot to be Denver's punt returner this year.
OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: QB Matt Mauck is ahead of veteran Danny Kanell for the team's third quarterback spot, and Kanell's days as a Bronco look numbered. Mauck might not make the team either -- Denver has kept only two quarterbacks at times over each of the past two seasons. ... RB Ron Dayne has had two good games in a row after rushing for 87 yards against San Francisco. He'll have a tough time unseating Tatum Bell, who is Denver's No. 2 running back.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: WR Ashley Lelie -- Lelie has had a good camp, perhaps his best of his four-year career. Lelie, who had more than 1,000 yards last season, is trying to add more to his game. He wants to be more effective in the red zone and on intermediate routes, and coaches are impressed with how hard he prepared in the offseason.
"He's gotten tougher, mentally and physically," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "He's hit the weight room. He's got to keep improving, he's not there yet, but I have seen him make some strides."
ROOKIE REPORT: CB Darrent Williams has benefited from his time with the first-team defense as Champ Bailey nurses a hamstring injury. His teammates are impressed with his ability to forget about mistakes and stay aggressive... CB Domonique Foxworth had a good camp and will contribute in some way this season. He plays and carries himself like a veteran... CB Karl Paymah was beat for a long touchdown against San Francisco after seemingly missing an assignment. He was scolded by Broncos coach Mike Shanahan when he returned to the sideline... RB Maurice Clarett might play in Denver's third preseason game. He has battled a groin injury... OL Chris Myers got a lot of playing time against the 49ers at center with the second-team offense... K/P Paul Ernster battled a sore leg in Denver's first preseason game. He was much more impressive on kickoffs against the 49ers.
INJURY REPORT: DE Courtney Brown should return to practice the week of Denver's final preseason game. Even if Brown, who has a dislocated shoulder, doesn't play in Denver's final preseason game, it looks like he's on track to be ready for the regular-season opener... DT Mario Fatafehi, who has a sprained knee, should return to practice this week... CB Jeff Shoate's injured knee is not responding well. He rarely practiced during camp... CB Champ Bailey is being very careful with his sore hamstring. He has yet to play in the preseason... TE Nate Jackson's hamstring injury lingered for a week and he did not play against San Francisco.
Voice your opinion on our Broncos Hardcore Message Board