|07-23-2005, 01:35 PM||#1|
Join Date: Mar 2004
Denver will have the most intriguing camp this summer
By Eddie Pells
11:33 p.m. July 22, 2005
DENVER â€“ The Denver Broncos could very well be holding the NFL's most intriguing training camp this summer.
Jerry Rice. Maurice Clarett. Courtney Brown. Ron Dayne. They are among the many high-profile players who came to Denver in hopes of showing they can still play this game and help push the Broncos beyond merely above-average.
Rice, the NFL's best receiver of all time, is trying to extend his career into a 21st season, seeking a backup role on a team that needs more playmakers inside the 20.
Clarett, one of the most divisive players in the history of college football, is trying to fit in and show he can still play after two years on the sideline.
Brown, the top pick of the 2000 draft, is getting a fresh start after his disappointing, injury-plagued stint with the Cleveland Browns.
Dayne, the Heisman Trophy winner in 1999, has almost been lost amid all the comings and goings this offseason in Denver. A bust with the New York Giants, Dayne might face the longest odds among the big names of sticking with the Broncos.
The list goes on. Brown joins Gerard Warren, Ebenezer Ekuban and Michael Myers â€“ all former Browns who came to Denver in a myriad of offseason transactions, hoping to show they weren't as bad as they often looked in Cleveland.
Last week, Denver also traded with the 49ers for John Engelberger, meaning the Broncos will head into camp with 14 defensive linemen with two or more years of experience.
"We've got depth there," coach Mike Shanahan said. "Now, we get a chance to see what people can do and what the pecking order will be."
Denver didn't have a first-round draft pick in April, but used its second-round pick and both its thirds on defensive backs who can also play special teams.
|07-23-2005, 01:35 PM||#2|
Join Date: Mar 2004
Shanahan is bent on improving special teams, which struggled in getting good field position last season, dampening the effectiveness of an offense and defense that were ranked fifth and fourth, respectively.
To help, the Broncos traded for Todd Sauerbrun, the oft-troubled punter who only adds to the intrigue at camp this season.
Sauerbrun has been accused in a news report of buying steroids and was arrested for drunken driving. His old team, the Carolina Panthers, maintained he never tested positive for banned substances.
"Hopefully, he'll be a good player and play at the standards and practice at the standards that we've set here in Denver. If not, he won't be with us," Shanahan said.
Barely mentioned in the offseason is the status of quarterback Jake Plummer, a player many believe has been the key to Denver's inability to win the division or a playoff game the last two seasons.
It's a view Shanahan certainly doesn't agree with. He and owner Pat Bowlen paid Plummer a $6 million roster bonus this offseason, committing themselves to a quarterback who, on the one hand, tied Broncos records for touchdowns (27) and set one for yardage (4,089) last season â€“ and, on the other, led the league in interceptions (20).
"He handled pressure extremely well and that's what quarterbacks are asked to do," Shanahan said at the end of last season, blaming himself for most of the quarterback's troubles.
Plummer played every snap in '04 and Denver tried unsuccessfully in the offseason to find some veteran competition for Danny Kanell as his backup. Among those courted but not signed were Gus Frerotte and Jeff Garcia.
Besides defensive line, the battle for playing time at tailback figures to be one of the best in training camp.
Dayne is a long shot and Clarett would likely make it as a backup. That leaves Quentin Griffin, who began last season as a starter, but got fumbleitis and then had his season end due to a knee injury; Tatum Bell, last year's second-round draft pick who finished the season as a starter; and Mike Anderson, the one-time 1,000-yard rusher who was lost last preseason to a groin injury, but is fully recovered and feels he can compete for the starting spot.
"I've always felt that way," Anderson said in May. "I feel that today. I'll feel that tomorrow when I wake up. I'll give it 100 percent, compete against everyone, and may the best man win."
While the tailbacks get their reps, most eyes will be on Clarett ... and Rice ... and Brown. It figures to be a three-ring circus of sorts.
"I feel like it's worth it," Rice said recently of his attempted comeback, "as long as I can still push myself to the level where in the fourth quarter and it's the last play of the game and I can dig down deep and make that play."
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