That was apparent during the team's week in Texas, as the Broncos held practices with the Cowboys. Williams, a popular cornerback who was shot and killed on Jan. 1, was from Fort Worth. On Aug. 16, many of Williams' family members, including his mother, Rosalind, met with the team at its hotel and then attended an afternoon practice.
At the end of practice, safety John Lynch brought Rosalind Williams into the Broncos huddle. She led the team in a cheer of "All ready!" which was Williams' trademark phrase. Broncos coach Mike Shanahan hugged her as they left the field.
"Obviously coming out here, she wasn't really sure if she could keep her emotions in check, but she shared with me that she was very happy to be able to break us out the way she did at the end, and I think was very special for everybody," Shanahan said.
Many players are still deeply affected by Williams' death. Although receiver Javon Walker spoke to HBO about the horror of having Williams die in his arms, he has not talked to the Denver media about the incident and has insisted all questions to him be about football only. Walker admitted to HBO that he might never fully get over Williams' death.
During the practice the Williams family attended, Walker took time out to visit with them. He wasn't practicing because of a sore knee, and he walked over as practice was going on to hug Rosalind Williams and take some pictures with other members of the Williams family. Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens also came over with Walker, gave Rosalind Williams an autographed football and took some pictures. Walker didn't comment as he left practice.
Seeing Rosalind Williams was an emotional experience for the Broncos, who traveled as a team to Darrent Williams' funeral in Fort Worth in January.
"I think it's cathartic for her and cathartic for us," Lynch said.
Darrent Williams' death also brought about changes in the organization. Denver created a position of vice president of security in April, and hired former Denver police deputy chief Dave Abrams. Part of Abrams' role is to educate players on dangerous places to go out in Denver and how to handle themselves if problematic situations arise.
The focus on player safety has been a top priority of owner Pat Bowlen, who took Williams' death very personally.
"It was as tough a situation as I think I've ever been through," Bowlen said. "I've been very fortunate, I haven't lost any of my children or any members of my family in a tragic way. But I would think it would be on that level."
The Broncos have to try to move on in what will be an emotional season as they honor Williams and Damien Nash, a running back who died in February, while focusing on football.
"We'll always, in some part of our heart, feel for 'D-Will' and think about him," Bowlen said.
CAMP CALENDAR: The Broncos' training camp ended with joint practices with the Cowboys on Aug. 15 and 16. Their camp in Denver ended on Aug. 11.
RB Travis Henry left the Broncos' second preseason game with a knee injury. That scared the team, but it was diagnosed as a first-degree MCL sprain, and he shouldn't miss any time in the regular season. Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said he could return for Denver's third preseason game.
"I think it will be OK," Henry said. "It's a day-to-day type of thing. Nothing too serious."
--Cowboys WR Terrell Owens took his first visit to Denver last offseason when he was able to shop himself for trade offers, before Philadelphia cut him. Although the Broncos decided not to sign him, Owens said he had a good visit with Shanahan.
"At that point in time, I was taking it one step at a time," Owens said. "Denver was the first team to step up to the plate to consider me being part of their organization, and it never got beyond that."
--The Broncos offered a $20,000 signing bonus to QB Tony Romo coming out of college in 2003, and the Cowboys offered $10,000. Shanahan and then-Cowboys assistant head coach/quarterbacks Sean Payton, both Eastern Illinois alums, were trying to land Romo from EIU, but Romo chose Dallas. Romo, who was undrafted, thought he had a better chance of making the Cowboys.
"To show you my recruiting ability, Sean beat me and I offered twice the amount of money, so that really disappointed me at that time," Shanahan said.
--The Broncos moved Chad Mustard from tight end to tackle. The Broncos are deep at tight end and were a bit short at tackle. Mustard practiced for some of last offseason at tackle before moving to tight end and making the team.
"I'm trying to learn," Mustard said about playing tackle. "They're being patient with me."
--In Denver's first preseason game, the starting offense was sharp, driving for a touchdown in its only series. The defense wasn't as good. In two series, the 49ers got a field goal and a touchdown. The Broncos played very basic on defense, but Shanahan said the execution was poor.
"You can play vanilla and still play great defense," Shanahan said. "We have a lot of work to do."
--The Broncos' starters struggled on offense and defense in their second preseason game. The starters played almost the entire first half and trailed Dallas 24-6 at halftime.
One bright spot was WR Brian Clark. He worked as the third receiver with the starting offense, and he caught a 90-yard touchdown in the second half.
"I had that play, but at the same time I had two drops," Clark said. "You have to stay consistent."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're going to run the ball and mix in the pass because we got a great quarterback and great receivers. But we're trying to have that attitude in the run game." â€"- RB Travis Henry.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Broncos were thin on the offensive line for their second preseason game. Injuries piled up, as Adam Meadows, Ben Hamilton and Jacob Rogers missed the game, and Matt Lepsis was still working his way back from a groin injury. Chad Mustard was moved from tight end to tackle, and the Broncos could look for some reinforcements at tackle before the season starts.
--FB Troy Fleming caught a short touchdown pass in Denver's preseason opener. Fleming has been Kyle Johnson's primary backup at fullback.
--DE Kenard Lang is trying to make the team after being a starter last year. Rookies Jarvis Moss and Tim Crowder, who are listed ahead of Lang on the depth chart, have been banged up in camp, which has given Lang some more reps. Ebenezer Ekuban's season-ending injury also opens the door for Lang to make the team.
--S Hamza Abdullah is making a favorable impression. He had an interception in Denver's first preseason game. He finished last season well, with some big plays on special teams.
--DT Demetrin Veal has filled a role the past couple of years, but
is deep on the depth chart because he is a bit undersized and isn't a
perfect fit for the Broncos' new scheme.
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