If you want to be the best, you have to learn from, copy and perform like the best.
Emmanuel Sanders showed Broncos Country two of the three in the first day of Training Camp Thursday. Learning from Peyton Manning and viewing a lot of film in the offseason, Sanders was the most disappointed guy in the room when talking about his TC performance on the first day.
After dropping one pass, Sanders told the media he would grade himself "below an F."
"My grandma could have caught that pass," Sanders said, adding that "conditioning kind of got to me, but no excuses, I should have caught it."
Despite that unexpected mediocrity from a highly touted free agency grab, Sanders reminded the press that such performance only motivates him.
"I don't take dropped passes lightly. So I've just got to go in the lab and keep working."
And it already seems to be working. By Day 3, Sanders had a few catches with DBs in his wake. And on Sunday's practice, he showed the crowd a one-handed TD catch.
And it turns out, going into the lab is exactly what Sanders has been doing since coming to the Broncos in March. It proved useful later in camp and it should (better) pay big dividends come January.
Put the pads on today! Like my DBs like I like my buns. Toasted w/ a lil ketchup(get it? ) #NFLTrainingCamp pic.twitter.com/rIvrW9TJlr— Emmanuel Sanders (@ESanders_10) July 26, 2014
Sanders watched the Super Bowl three or four times, something that's probably a little easier for a player who was not part of that February catastrophe. But it is crucial for understanding what doesn't work against an elite defense and uber important for coming out on the right side of the stats in Game 3 of the regular season (and likely - hopefully - again in the postseason).
Though Sanders admitted he didn't see such a lopsided victory coming in SBXLIX, he thinks the Broncos beat themselves more than they lost to the Seahawks.
"There were a lot of mistakes in that game that usually don't happen. But you can tell...[Broncos] got into panic mode," Sanders said, adding that his outsider's view of the game can help everybody. "Now that I'm part of this team, they're teaching me and I'm teaching them. We're going to live and learn."
It's his willingness to be a student of the game that will serve him well in a Peyton Manning offense. Any down time he has, Sanders likes to break down game film. And he has spent much of this offseason watching every single game the Broncos played last year.
Every. Single. Game.
And his focus isn't just on the plays but on the players - specifically Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and former Bronco receiver Eric Decker.
"I try to just see what those guys are doing so I can improve my game - because this offense is tough," Sanders admitted. "You move around a lot and I'm just trying to get acclimated with it, so the faster I get acclimated with it the faster I can just be myself and know exactly what I need to do instead of thinking about it."
And though Sanders said he felt a little rusty and was beaten down by the altitude after a month working out in super flat Texas, Manning seems confident in his newest starter.
"Emmanuel being here, he has worked hard," Manning said after the first day of training camp. "It's a great opportunity for a lot of guys to step up and I'm looking forward to working with those guys."
Emmanuel Sanders epic catch! #broncos #iPhonepic #NFLTrainingCamp pic.twitter.com/XEO7l6GJTL— Cody Riley (@CGR66) July 27, 2014
By the sounds of it, Sanders expects to be one of those guys who steps up this season. And based on news out of camp, he's got some top rookie talent knocking at his heels already, so there's added incentive.
Maybe that's why he showed off his punt returning skills by fielding multiple punts at once:
Via the #Broncos' @philmilani, here's Emmnuel Sanders trying to field five punts simultaneously. pic.twitter.com/rrnGcYNVgD— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) July 24, 2014
"This league is an every-day-you-go-out-and-prove-yourself league in terms of games and practice," he said. "So we're not taking it lightly. We're putting in the work and we're just going to continue to get better. One day at a time."
And for Sanders - and the whole team - it's not just about getting better. It's about being the best.
"This is a first-class organization. No B.S," Sanders said. "Everybody's about winning, and that's what I'm about."