"San Diego has taken it to us the last couple of years, so we had better be improved to challenge a team that has a high number of Pro Bowl players," said Broncos coach Mike Shanahan.
The Broncos do feel pretty good about their team. Injuries to some key players have healed and other players who were deemed selfish and poor for chemistry have been jettisoned. The offseason acquisitions weren't flashy, but fill some holes.
"Every year is a new year, and everyone comes in with a clean slate," quarterback Jay Cutler said. "We feel good about where we are at. Obviously we didn't get done what we wanted to last year, but we have a good group of guys."
One key for the Broncos is adapting to defensive coordinator Bob Slowik's scheme. Slowik takes the reins of the defense from Jim Bates, who left the team after being offered a reassignment on the staff. Some aspects of the defense are still a work in progress, but the transition seems to be going much better than last year, when players were struggling with Bates' defense throughout preseason.
"We had major carry over from practicing in the summer," linebacker Boss Bailey said. "We didn't have to reinstall anything. We just went right at it and kept things going."
Despite being largely forgotten about after a 7-9 season, the Broncos feel confident. It's strange for the Broncos not to be mentioned at all among the list of AFC candidates, but being underdogs has worked as motivation.
"Our teammates now are working harder, we want it more," Graham said. "We had a bad season last year and want to improve from last year.
"It motivates us a lot. Not going to the playoffs is not what we wanted. We want to be in the run for that championship, that's our goal, that's our No. 1 goal."
CAMP CALENDAR: The Broncos started training camp on July 25, and it ends on Aug. 12. Denver will then hold practices with the Dallas Cowboys on Aug. 13 and 14.
Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall's arm looks healthy, but now off-field issues threaten to keep him off the field.
Marshall visited NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss some of the trouble Marshall has found himself in. He has been arrested three times in the past year-and-a-half.
The Broncos aren't sure what Goodell's ruling will be, but there is some concern that he will be suspended for multiple games.
"You're always concerned anytime the commissioner calls you in to have a meeting," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "It's obviously not a good sign."
Rod Smith, the Broncos' all-time leading receiver who officially retired on the eve of training camp, went with Marshall to the meeting with Goodell. He has acted as a mentor for Marshall and hoped the third-year receiver wouldn't be suspended.
"I pray he doesn't," Smith said. "I honestly believe he has a great direction in his life. We've talked about some of the things he's doing now that are different than he was doing at this time a year ago."
-- Offensive guard Montrae Holland, who started 16 games for the Broncos last year, wasn't allowed by the coaches to practice at the start of camp because he came to camp overweight. Projected right tackle Chris Kuper moved to right guard to replace Holland, and Ryan Harris worked with the first-team offense at right tackle.
"He's going to have to lose about 20 pounds," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "It's going to take some time. When he loses it, he can come back."
-- Receiver Rod Smith retired on the eve of training camp. He didn't play at all last year, and after two hip surgeries he knew to call it a career. He holds all major career records for undrafted players, and all career Broncos receiving records.
"If I didn't do anything else, I hope that I was a great teammate because all I ever wanted to do was win," Smith said.
-- Smith went with Brandon Marshall to a meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Goodell wanted to meet with Marshall about his off-field issues. Smith has acted as a mentor to Marshall for a few months.
"He didn't have to ask twice," Smith said. "It was an honor to me for him to have me that highly regarded."
-- Tight end Tony Scheffler has dealt with foot problems for more than a year after breaking his foot in a 2007 minicamp practice, but early in camp all signs are positive.
"Foot felt great today," Scheffler said. "I didn't notice the whole practice, so it feels good."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I did everything I could and I would love to have a speech there one day." - Retired WR Rod Smith on his chances to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--WR Edell Shepherd was put on injured reserve after tearing an ACL on the first day of camp. Shepherd had a chance to make the team as a backup receiver.
--WR Taylor Jacobs was signed after Shepherd's injury. Jacobs spend a couple of months with the team last season, knows the offense and can play special teams.
--DT Carlton Powell tore his Achilles' tendon in an offseason workout and will miss the entire season. The fifth-round pick could have provided depth on the defensive line.
--OT Ryan Clady signed a five-year contract that could be worth as much as $17.5 million on the morning of Denver's first training camp practice. The first-round pick got $11.5 million guaranteed.
INJURY REPORT: WR Edell Shepherd will miss the season with a knee injury. ... TE Chad Mustard is on the physically unable to perform list because of a hamstring injury. He could be back sometime in the preseason.
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