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Broncos rookies collectively ignore union's position, attend minicamp

First-round pick Surtain: "I’m a rookie, and I don’t have the advantage for me to talk or even miss minicamp."

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Out of the mouth of babes comes so much common sense even their elders might learn something.

The NFL players union has discouraged rookies from showing up to their team’s rookie minicamps. Broncos rookies ignored their veteran’s plea.

Of the Broncos’ 21 drafted and undrafted rookies, 20 showed up for their rookie minicamp that included an on-field walkthrough and position drills Friday at the team’s UCHealth Training Center. The lone exception was 7th-round outside linebacker Jonathon Cooper, who had a heart ablation procedure Wednesday but is already participating in virtual meetings and is hoping to fly to Denver late next week.

Otherwise, first-round draft pick Pat Surtain II led the rooks into minicamp, union wishes be darned.

"I was going to come up here and play regardless," Surtain said in a Zoom interview Friday with the Denver media. "I’m a rookie, and I don’t have the advantage for me to talk or even miss minicamp. I don’t have any proven ability to miss minicamp. I just have to go out here and practice and compete every day and get right with the playbook. There were no plans of missing minicamp."

> Video above: Denver Broncos introduce Patrick Surtain II.

Credit: AP
Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II, right, holds a team jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after he was chosen by the Denver Broncos with the ninth pick in the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 29, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

It’s safe to assume all NFL coaches disagree with the union’s stance of skipping the offseason practices. The Broncos now have evidence A and B why the veteran players should work out the team facility – Ja’Wuan James and DaeSean Hamilton. Both suffered significant injuries away from the team facility and because they did, the NFL argues they do not have injury protection. The Broncos terminated James on Friday with a “non-football injury” designation that automatically voids the guarantees on his contract. He is officially finished as a Bronco, even if a formal grievance is assured to follow.

But never mind money. Broncos head coach Vic Fangio wants practice for the sake of execution.

'We had five jets, from the military I assume, fly over the field here towards the end of our walkthrough and they came out all stacked up real close together," Fangio the head coach said before he transitioned to Professor Vic. "They split out and impressively turned around, came back past the practice field all in single file.

"My first thought when I saw all that was, ‘Man, that must’ve taken a lot of practice. That practice developed a lot of trust between those five pilots. They were flying close together for a while. That’s what we need to do. We need to have a lot of practice so these guys can trust each other—the guy next to him, the guy next to him, all through the 11 positions on the team.

"We need practice just like those pilots needed it. There was a fine line there. We could avoid 100 percent of injuries if we don’t practice ever. I guarantee you’d show up to the game and there would be a million injuries in the game. We need the practice and we’re going to be smart with it and move forward."

Credit: AP Photo/Ashley Landis
Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio walks the sideline during the second half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif.

Roughly 40 Broncos veteran players skipped the four-week Phase I conditioning portion of the NFL’s offseason program. A one-week Phase II begins Monday. It allows players to go on the field for football drills and coaching instruction. The major part of the offseason – the four-week Phase III – will run from May 24 through June 18. It includes the 10 OTA practices where there can be 11 on 11 work and a mandatory three-day minicamp.

The rookies will be there. Do the vets want the rooks to get a jump on them?

"We’ve put a lot of thought into the schedule that we have come up with," Fangio said. "It came through many additions. I like the schedule we have. I think we’ve heard everybody’s side of the story – players, coaches, management. I don’t know how many will be here. Hopefully we’ll have a good number. Its voluntary camp, so whoever decides to come, we’ll be happy about."

RELATED: DaeSean Hamilton latest Bronco to suffer significant injury (ACL); Ja'Wuan James terminated without pay

RELATED: Denver Broncos sign 11 college free agents



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