ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — It was easily the Broncos’ best day of training camp so far.
The largest official gathering ever at the team’s Dove Valley complex now called UCHealth Training Center – 7,121 – squeezed into the grassy berm on a warm, sun-beating Saturday morning. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, country music star Kenny Chesney and football star Peyton Manning were among those in attendance. Ciara was there for the fourth consecutive training camp practice.
"Broncos Country!" head coach Nathaniel Hackett with a smile in his post-practice press conference. "Everybody keeps talking about it – that was real. Everywhere you go everybody talks about where the best fans are, and it’s pretty awesome when you come out here and the whole (berm) is gone. No green (grass) is showing, it’s just orange."
Ciara’s husband, Russell Wilson, put on a show for the people. It started pre-practice when Wilson and safety Justin Simmons addressed the crowd on this NFL-conceived “Back Together Saturday” camp day across the league.
"It means so much to us just to be able to celebrate practices and show you guys how hard we’re working to go win the Super Bowl – that’s our plan, go win the Super Bowl," Wilson said into the microphone.
That proclamation brought a nice round of applause.
There was one 11 on 11 practice period where there seemed to be two plays off every snap. The first was the play called by Hackett. And then when that play didn’t develop quick enough for Wilson, he scrambled out of the pocket and improvised another play – with a scramble play completion to receiver Jerry Jeudy often the result.
The defense won its share, especially when the ball was thrown into the direction of cornerback Pat Surtain II. He had another day of impressive pass breakups.
"I’ll go over to him each and every day and say, 'Can you let us complete a pass, please. Just once,'’’ said offensive coordinator Justin Outten.
In one two-play sequence late in practice, cornerback Ronald Darby intercepted a Wilson pass and returned it for a touchdown. On the next play, Wilson threw a perfect deep strike to wide-open rookie Montrell Washington for a touchdown. Washington was in the clear because top nickelback K’Waun Williams pulled up on the play.
Sources told 9NEWS Williams was taken for an MRI on his knee. Williams had meniscus surgery early in his career on the same knee. However, results of the MRI showed no structural damage. Williams is sore and will miss a few days, if not a week, but the Broncos got good news.
Broncos special teams coordinator Dwayne Stukes also called it the best camp practice for his units. There was one punt coverage drill where linebacker Jonas Griffith was one of the first players down on coverage. Griffith was initially acquired by the Broncos last year because of his standout special teams skills, but he has developed into a starting inside linebacker.
Griffith has also been getting training camp reps with the No. 1 defense alongside Josey Jewell and No. 2 defense next to Alex Singleton. Which means Griffith may not be available for special teams as much as Stukes was hoping for.
"You going to make me sad right now when I go back to my office?" Stukes said, half-jokingly. "I’m disappointed by that but I’m happy for the kid. I mean the kid works his butt off. I’m happy for the kid but selfishly, I would love for him to be on all four phases (punt, punt return, kickoff, kickoff return). I’m not saying he’s not going to be there. Because there’s still an evaluation process going on throughout training camp … but that’s a tough one. That’s an absolutely tough one.
"We’re going to try to incorporate him when we can, we’re going to try to put him on a phase when we can. All of this is continuous communication between myself, coach Hackett, coach (Ejiro) Evero. I just need to know the defensive plan for him and then we can have a plan for him on special teams."
Bronco players are off Sunday, then resume training camp Monday. The first padded practice will be Tuesday.
>>Video below: Peyton Manning attends Broncos training camp
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