ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – If you expected the Broncos’ first practice of the 2011 regular season to be filled with new faces, the composition of their roster Monday probably disappointed you.
The team was quiet during Sunday’s waiver-claim period; the only player they added was cornerback Jonathan Wilhite, who had been waived by the New England Patriots the previous Monday and had passed through the waiver process without being claimed. Even the Broncos’ practice squad was an extension of their summer work; all eight players signed to it Sunday were in Denver’s training camp.
With the No. 2 waiver claim priority, the Broncos could have reasonably expected to be awarded most, if not all, of the players that they would have claimed. The Carolina Panthers had the top priority based on their league-worst 2-14 finish in 2010 and claimed five players off waivers.
Following a two-hour practice Monday morning, Broncos coach John Fox reiterated a point made by general manager Brian Xanders at a press conference on Saturday — that they valued the five and a half weeks of training camp and preseason play and preferred to take their chances with players who’d learned their system rather than starting anew with those cast aside by other clubs.
“There was only a few guys that we had interest in, and at the end of the day it wasn’t enough interest to retrain a guy (to replace) a guy that’s already had five weeks of training in our systems, both offense, defense and special teams,” Fox said after Monday’s practice.
WILHITE ARRIVED in Denver on Saturday and immediately went through a workout, his second since the Patriots released him Aug. 29. The St. Louis Rams also brought him in for a tryout. Wilhite acknowledged that he didn’t have any kind of good or bad feeling heading into the Broncos’ workout.
“I really didn’t have a clue. I was just coming here for a workout and just trying to do my best,” he said.
As his first practice began, he was put through the up-down drill that all new defenders have endured in their first practices this season, then went to work trying to absorb as much as he could.
“There’s a lot of similarities (between Denver and New England), but a lot of differences,” Wilhite said. “Different names, different checks, so that’s always going to be the hard part of learning the defense.
“Once you get everything down, everything else will smooth itself out.”
ATTENDANCE REPORT: Middle linebacker Nate Irving returned to practice after being injured at Arizona last Thursday. He’s listed as a third-teamer on the depth chart … Safety Quinton Carter sat out with what Fox termed an “irritated hamstring” … Defensive tackles Brodrick Bunkley (knee), Ty Warren (triceps), Marcus Thomas (pectoral muscle) and linebacker D.J. Williams (elbow) all remained sidelined.
NUMBERS GAME: Wilhite will wear jersey number 29 … Cornerback Chris Harris switched from No. 38 to No. 25. “Thirty-eight, that’s not too flashy. Thirty-eight’s like a running back number,” the rookie said. “Twenty-five was open; it’s something new. Try to take it up a notch.”