|09-07-2007, 04:19 AM||#1|
Join Date: Apr 2006
Hixon ready to launch NFL career after a one-year delay
If all goes well for Domenik Hixon, the Broncos will win the toss, and his one-year delayed NFL debut will come hurtling toward him, end over end.
Hixon was drafted a year ago by the Broncos with returning in mind. After sitting out his rookie season to mend leg and foot fractures, he hopes to give Bronco fans a look at his ability to return kickoffs and punts in Sunday's season opener at Buffalo.
"I think he'll be fine," said Scott O'Brien, the Broncos' special-teams coordinator. "I'm looking forward to it. I think he has the potential to be really good. We just have to give him some experience."
At 6-feet-2, 190 pounds, Hixon is taller and skinnier than the prototype returner. Devin Hester is 5-11, 189. Dante Hall is 5-8, 187. Hixon has all the other attributes for a returner, though, including guts.
In the preseason game against Cleveland, the Broncos' last hope was a big return as they were down a point with a minute to go and no timeouts. Hixon caught a short punt in traffic, broke a tackle and made a 9-yard return. The Broncos needed more, but it was the effort under pressure that impressed.
"He's a short-area elusive guy for his height," O'Brien said. "He's got really good explosiveness, quickness off the spot."
Asked whether speed or vision were more important in returning, Hixon said the key is catching the ball.
"Also the 10 guys up front blocking," Hixon said. "They're doing a great job - definitely put that in there. During the preseason we had the holes there. We missed a couple but they're doing their job."
Don't expect rookie defensive end Tim Crowder to play against Buffalo. His sprained left ankle acted up again and he didn't practice Thursday.
Driving Mr. Rice
Dinner at Del Frisco's was finished Monday night. Conversation had diminished to small talk, and free-agent defensive end Simeon Rice had his limousine waiting outside, courtesy of the Broncos.
Rice was saying goodbye to his dinner companions: coach Mike Shanahan, defensive line coaches Bill Johnson and Jacob Burney, coach/front-office assistant Jimmy Spencer and John Lynch.
Unable to get a true read on his former Tampa Bay teammate during dinner, Lynch the safety became Lynch the salesman.
"They had a limo for him, but I said, 'Let me drive you home,"' Lynch said, meaning Rice's hotel, "show you the town a little.' And so I drove him, and that's when I really had a good feeling about him joining our side. He said, 'The way everybody talks good about this place, it almost scares me.' I said, 'No, this is for real."'
The next day, Rice and the Broncos agreed to a one-year contract that guarantees him $3 million and adds another $1 million in incentives.
"I knew the most important day was the next day because everything had to fall in place contractually," Lynch said. "He told me, 'Hey, money's not the most important thing,' but for everybody it matters. But he wanted to win, and the team made it happen."
Fine by Champ
Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey was not offended by the comments of Buffalo quarterback J.P. Losman.
Asked by the Buffalo media Wednesday if Bailey would change the Bills' game plan, Losman said: "Not much. If they want to play one-on-one with (Evans), we are going to take our chances. It's our best receiver versus their best corner."
"That's what I expect him to say," he said. "This is the NFL, you face talent every week. I don't expect them to back away from what they do best. I like to hear that. Only the game will tell whether they do or not. I've heard quarterbacks say it a lot and then they don't do it. Some do it and you try to make them pay for it."
Peyton's old buddy
The new NFL season officially began Thursday night with Brandon Stokley's former Indianapolis Colts playing the New Orleans Saints.
"Oh, I'm watching," said Stokley, who after four years of catching Peyton Manning passes is now the Broncos' No. 3 receiver. "I'm a football fan, anyway. College, pros, if a football game is on tonight, I'm watching. It will make it a little bit interesting because it's the Colts."