ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Among observers near and far, it seemed there was less buzz over players who were not at Dove Valley for Friday afternoon’s than those who were.
There was chatter about ex-Panthers quarterback Matt Moore signing with the Dolphins and the impact on a potential trade for Kyle Orton. There was speculation that the Broncos and former Ravens running back Willis McGahee coming to a contract agreement, although as the free-agent signing period began at 4 p.m. MDT Friday, there was no sign that anything was imminent.
By the time practice began, Orton was still the first-team quarterback, and the bulk of the ground duties belonged to Knowshon Moreno, Lance Ball and LenDale White.
“As I said (Thursday), and I’ll just repeat the same thing: Kyle’s on our team and had another good practice today,” Broncos coach John Fox said.
For a second consecutive day, Orton looked the crispest of Denver’s quarterbacks, although his accuracy did fluctuate and he threw his first interception of the summer when rookie Von Miller jumped in front of a short pass for Eddie Royal during seven-on-seven work.
It was Miller’s second interception overall; he also snagged a pass during one-on-one work in an earlier period. His day turned painful shortly thereafter when he injured his right quadriceps muscle; after on-field treatment from the Broncos’ training staff, he left and was listed as “day-to-day” by Fox.
AHEAD OF SCHEDULE: Tight end Julius Thomas was justifiably perceived as a long-term project when the Broncos drafted him in April; he had just one season of college playing experience at Portland State after playing basketball for the Vikings the previous four years.
But the last two days, Thomas has looked more like a seasoned veteran, moving with more fluidity and making more receptions in traffic than any other Broncos tight end during the team and seven-on-seven periods. He also saw some occasional spits of action with the first unit.
ALL PRESENT AND ACCOUNTED FOR: When Nate Irving ran onto the field 45 minutes into practice, the Broncos officially had their entire rookie complement in the fold.
Less than an hour earlier, second-round safety Rahim Moore had made his practice-field debut. He was immediately placed onto the first unit, playing alongside Carter while the team’s incumbent veteran starting safeties sat out Friday’s work.
“It just reminded me of my high-school and college days, where on the first day (a coach would say), ‘Rahim, you’re with the ones,’” Moore said. “You’ve got to grow up someday and get thrown in the fire. It also shows me how I can respond as a young man and how much I can take self-criticism.”
“I made a few mistakes today, but everything I did, I did full speed,” Moore added. “I’m learning. Coach (Ron) Milus and Coach (Sam) Garnes are doing a good job coaching me up every snap.
“It wasn’t as fast as I thought it would be, but it was pretty good.”
Fox has a history of immediately inserting young players when they fit the team’s needs. As Carolina’s coach in 2008, he placed safety Charles Godfrey and right tackle Jeff Otah onto the first team during their first practices with the club; they remained in the starting lineup permanently as the Panthers finished a franchise-best 12-4.
WHO’S WHERE: When Carter succumbed to the heat, second-year veteran Kyle McCarthy moved up to the first unit. McCarthy and Darcel McBath were the first-team safeties during Thursday morning’s practice, before Moore and Carter had signed their contracts …
… Orlando Franklin continued to work with the first team at right tackle …
… Matthew Willis rotated in with the first team while Brandon Lloyd received a brief round of treatment. Lloyd returned and made one of the best catches of the day, a leaping grab from Orton over Bailey near the right sideline …
ATTENDANCE REPORT: Safety Renaldo Hill did not practice, but was seen heading to the Broncos’ weight room during the session. He missed Thursday morning’s work because of “dehydration,” according to Fox, but was with the team for its walk-through that night …
… Fellow safety Brian Dawkins did not practice for a second consecutive day. Dawkins said Wednesday that he is in the process of contract renegotiations to ensure his third Broncos season and 16th overall …
… Running back Correll Buckhalter, tight end Daniel Coats and fullback Mike McLaughlin were released and were not at practice. The moves were made to help get the Broncos in compliance with the current 90-man roster limit. Shortly after practice, the Broncos announced that defensive end Ryan McBean, linebacker Wesley Woodyard and kicker Matt Prater had signed their restricted free agent tenders. They, along with all free-agent signees league-wide, cannot practice until next Wednesday.
PLAYS OF THE DAY: While Miller’s interception of Orton was notable, it was a Champ Bailey interception that elicited the day’s loudest roar; he jumped on a pass from Tim Tebow in the right flat for a pick that would have likely been a touchdown in a game situation.
Later in practice, Eddie Royal turned a short pass across the middle from Orton into a long touchdown, out-running Andre’ Goodman and the rest of the first-team defense en route to the end zone. Running back Knowshon Moreno sprinted down the field to celebrate with Royal, who appears to have no lingering issues from hip surgery last January.
WEATHER REPORT: The Broncos’ first afternoon session of training camp took place in toasty 88-degree conditions, with the temperature dropping to 79 degrees by the end of practice as dark clouds threatened, but didn’t rain upon the Broncos’ work.
NEXT PRACTICE: Saturday morning at 8:50 a.m. MDT. This will be the Broncos’ first full practice of training camp, but they are not expected to work on goal-line situations.
“We won’t start quite that fast,” Fox said. ” I can’t say it won’t be in the future, but it won’t be tomorrow.”