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Rookies respect the hard work, success of players who 'have been there before'

Sports media may have shown nothing but disrespect to the Denver Broncos in the postseason and since, but there is one group that has a huge appreciation for what the Broncos have been able to accomplish.

While most of the world and/or sports writers have zero respect for the Denver Broncos defense and what it did game in and game out last season to ensure a third Lombardi in Dove Valley, there are a few who have the utmost respect for it -€” the rookies.

Safety Will Parks has been around T.J. Ward a lot this offseason, and hanging around the seven-year veteran has given him a higher regard for all the hard work players before him have put in.

"The one thing [Ward] kind of showed me without telling me is respecting what you're around, respecting your atmosphere and respecting your culture and your environment. Whatever you're around, just respecting it," Parks said.

And that respect means understanding their roles -€” not so much as rookies but as members of a championship-caliber franchise.

"It's not college. You don't redshirt. You don't just get to take a year and see how things work. It's a job now," noted fellow rookie safety Justin Simmons. "You've got to come in and compete for those spots. If you're not (competing), the guy behind you is."

Parks could not agree more with Simmons assessment, saying "things are about to get real" in training camp as the rookies get a real taste for pro life.

"Right now, that's what is about to go down," the former Arizona Wildcat said. "Definitely about to get real out there in training camp for the next five weeks and being able to respect what you're doing -€” not only to respect it -€” but to be able to take it to the next level is one thing I consider that I definitely learned."

For Simmons, Parks and the rest of the rookies, there is a delicate balance for respecting the players who have done it before but still competing hard enough to take their jobs.

In the grand scheme of things, though, you are here to take someone's job. However you  have to get that done, you get that done. But you have a lot of respect for the guys that are in front of you.  -Justin Simmons, rookie safety

"In the grand scheme of things though, you are here to take someone's job. However you have to get that done, you get that done," Simmons added. "You do have a lot of respect for the guys that are in front of you, that have been here, have done it longer and obviously have done it better than you have seeing you haven't played a snap yet. You take all of that into account."

Part of respecting the Broncos defense -€” which by all accounts shouldn't miss a beat as it returns nine starters this season -€” means inviting a little extra push from the veterans.

"Those guys demand a level of excellence ...and they are not going to let a couple of rookies come in and lower the bar," Simmons said, adding a "standard has already been set" by the best secondary in the NFL. "We have to come in and match that; not come in, feel it out and see how it goes. We have to come in and match that mindset, that mentality and get out there and compete."

Accepting critique and advice from the veterans is what Parks considers "being a pro," something he's been concentrating on since coming to Denver.  Whether it is figuring out certain schemes or understanding a particular play, he expects to know if he took a wrong step or went the wrong way.

"Just listening to those guys, and it shows when they take the right step (and) that play is a pick-six or it's an interception," Parks said. "Learning-wise, just picking up from those guys and putting it to my skill set."

With some superior skills, both Simmons and Parks have a chance to see playing time this season - even with the NFL's top secondary - but a lot of that will depend on training camp, and they know it.

"That's the goal -€” to come in and play," Simmons said, adding that having a special teams role as a rookie is really a given. "I'm expecting that to be the launching pad into the Broncos organization. You do so much as a defensive player, but to be able to add that special teams part to your resume and to be able to actually commit and make plays in that area of the game, that'll help you to be able to stick around for a long time."