ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Ten teams made their preseason debuts Saturday night. But for the Broncos, it was just another day as their final week of this unusual training camp got under way.
It’s unusual because of the absence of offseason workouts and practices, which will return this year. The schedule restrictions and limits to one contact practice per day, however, are here to stay.
With the new rules in mind, John Fox has tried to make the most of that solitary session. During Fox’s nine seasons as Carolina’s head coach, the morning practices of two-a-days in training camp typically lasted no longer than two hours and 15 minutes, with an evening session in shorts and shoulder pads that rarely endured more than 90 minutes.
Now that evening session is out, replaced by an 80-minute walk-through. To compensate for the loss of near-full-speed (but low contact) evening work, the morning practices this summer have occasionally approached three hours in length.
This, Fox, acknowledged Saturday, is “probably the biggest adjustment.”
“We are at one practice a day (of) real football practice. That’s a concern,” Fox said. “You don’t want to get it where it’s so long that you get to the point of diminishing return, so it’s a juggling act.”
The extra off-days have made an impact, as well. The Broncos are off from practice Sunday and received an unusual mid-week respite on Aug. 2 — something that Fox admitted was not in his ideal plan.
“It’s something that we have to do and that’s what we did,” he said Aug. 3.
After nine previous camps as a head coach and 12 more as an NFL assistant coach, Fox developed a clear methodology of how to run training camp and what he wanted to extract from it. His schedules in Carolina were precise and efficient; rarely were his players or staff caught by surprise with last-minute changes. This is key to Fox’s strengths as coach and why he fits the Broncos well; after the previous two seasons in which the day’s schedules could be shifted with little warning, Fox offers stability and punctuality.
But now he has to adjust to that well-refined machine. He will, because the guidelines under the new CBA offer no other choice. As Fox said as camp began, ”I just try to operate by the rules we’re put under.”
INJURY REPORT: Wide receiver was the hardest-hit position by injuries, with Eddie Royal (hip), Mark Dell (sprained knee) and Britt Davis (foot) all sitting out Saturday’s practice. Fellow receiver Matthew Willis was on the field, but saw limited work.
Royal’s currently ailing hip is not the one that was surgically repaired, Fox said after practice.
Dell was later placed on the waived/injured list. If he passes through waivers, the Broncos can place him on injured reserve. They took the same protocol with running back Mario Fannin, who suffered a knee injury during practice Aug. 5.
For more on the receivers and the Broncos’ roster moves there, click here …
… Nose tackle Brodrick Bunkley did not practice because of a groin problem. Elsewhere among the defensive line corps, Mitch Unrein (knee) returned to practice, but Louis Leonard (knee) remained sidelined. Leonard has been on the field out of pads wearing a brace on his knee in recent days …
… Linebacker Derek Domino and Nate Irving did not practice. Irving sprained his ankle earlier this week …
… Also missing practice were cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson (groin), guard Stanley Daniels (ankle) and tight end Richard Quinn (knee). Of those three, only Quinn did not play against the Cowboys.
WHO’S WHERE: Bunkley’s absence pushed ex-New England Patriot Ty Warren onto the first unit at nose tackle. The chain reaction moved Ryan McBean up to the second unit …
… The absences of Royal and Willis during team periods allowed other receivers a chance to work as the No. 3 receiver when the Broncos used those sets. D’Andre Goodwin was among those who made a cameo with the first unit …
… Safety Kyle McCarthy worked a series with the first-team defense, but the rest of the morning’s free-safety work belonged to rookie Rahim Moore …
… Julius Thomas continued to see plenty of work with the first team in two-tight end formations with Daniel Fells …
… Wide receiver Brandon Lloyd channeled his inner Ochocinco, kicking field goals while many of the Broncos worked on an adjacent field during a special-teams period. Lloyd increased his degree of difficulty by working with the narrower uprights, which are only nine feet apart, the width used in the Arena Football League.
WEATHER REPORT: A gorgeous, comfortable morning greeted the Broncos for their return to Dove Valley, with temperatures rising from 67 to 79 degrees during the session under mostly sunny skies.
NEXT PRACTICE: Monday afternoon at 2:40 p.m. MDT. The team is off Sunday.