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Football is family: Broncos veterans join rookies at team hotel for training camp

With COVID concerns eased, Hackett wants to strengthen team bonding with his new team by having all players hang together for a couple weeks.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Since he became the Broncos’ head coach, Nathaniel Hackett has often preached family.

He talked about the importance of family at his introductory press conference, and based on subsequent player interviews, Hackett brings up family in meetings. Family members are invited to watch practice along the sidelines.

It’s no wonder then that Hackett is returning to the old-school bonding ways of having all the Broncos veteran players join the rookies in staying at the same local team hotel for the first couple weeks of training camp that begins in two weeks.

The full team stayed at a local hotel during the John Fox era – his former Carolina Panthers always moved their training camp to Wofford College in South Carolina. Still do. But since Gary Kubiak became head coach in 2015, the more experienced veterans occasionally had the option of staying home.

Vance Joseph was planning to have the vets spend camp at a team hotel in 2017 but there were hotel issues and he allowed the vets to sleep at their homes before the Broncos changed hotels in 2018. The vets did stay with the rookies in 2018 for 10 days or so.

In Vic Fangio’s first season as Broncos head coach in 2019, the vets and rookies stayed at the same hotel but some vets were dismissed after a week or so from the hotel depending on their service time.

None of the veteran players stayed at the team hotel the past two years because of COVID concerns. For the most part, the NFL is now back to normal.

Hackett, the Broncos’ first-year head coach with a virtually new staff of assistants not to mention a new quarterback in Russell Wilson, wants to strengthen his team’s bond. He will have his players hang out together for a couple weeks in the same hotel.

"I’ve always enjoyed it," said Broncos kicker Brandon McManus, the team’s union rep and player with the most Broncos seniority. "I've enjoyed being just steps away from the guys’ rooms, hanging out, watching a movie or playing cards. There’s a big bond there.

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Credit: AP
Denver Broncos kicker Brandon McManus (8) celebrates his field goal against the Washington Football Team with punter Sam Martin (6) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

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"I think a big factor with our 2015 Super Bowl team was we were such a tight-knit group. We would always linger after practice and hang out. We didn’t go home right away, we would linger around. I think it’s good. It doesn’t please the wives necessarily because they’re left taking care of the kids and the household for a period of time but as a football team I do think it has a lot to do with your success."

The Broncos used to take the team bonding a step further by going off to college campuses for training camp with the players sharing dorm rooms, starting with the Colorado School of Mines in Golden for their first two seasons of 1960-61. The Broncos held their camp at the University of Northern Colorado from 1982-2002 – a period that included all of the John Elway quarterback years – before deciding to stay put at their year-round facility in 2003.

There are still several teams who travel off-site for training camp including the Bills, Cowboys and Chiefs. But the majority of teams find it more cost-effective and convenient to not pack up all the video, training, and medical equipment and move to temporary home, only to move back a few weeks later.

Hackett is doing the next-best thing by bringing together all his players for a stay at one local hotel, at least until just before their first preseason game Aug. 13 against the Dallas Cowboys.

"This whole coaching staff is all about love," Broncos left tackle Garett Bolles said in April. "I think that’s one thing that’s good for this whole organization is it’s about love. We’re going to bring that family atmosphere that we needed. It’s going to be business, but at the same time, family is a part of it. When you go to work, you’re providing for your family, so you might as well bring your family as a part of work. I think that’s really cool."

Credit: Brian Olson/KUSA

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