There’s always talk of a Super Bowl hangover.
You’ve heard it before: that once a team goes though the grind and wins the Lombardi Trophy, when it returns the next season it’s not the same. You don’t work as hard. You’re not as motivated. Your championship dreams were answered and your drive takes a hit.
For the Denver Broncos, that wasn’t just talk. In the 2016 season, they lived that hangover from the start. As Aqib Talib told Mike Silver in this excellent column:
“We won a 'ship, and we came back and had a lackadaisical offseason. It was a lot of laid-back, cool kids-playing around in the weight room, quick weight sessions, lots of recovery and taking it super chill. In this sport, you get out what you put in, and the offseason is the time to put in. We didn't put in the work, and we definitely learned our lesson."
Through the first two days of training camp, that intensity for the Broncos has returned. The energy has improved and the execution on the field has been better from a season ago. It’s safe to say the Broncos also have been more focused in the meeting rooms. If it isn’t clear, those two aspects have a direct connection.
“It’s been great. It’s been really good even among the veteran players like (Demaryius Thomas) D.T. and Chris (Harris Jr.) today,” Broncos coach Vance Joseph said after practice. “I love that because if those guys can work, everyone else will follow. When you have the best working against each other every day like that, they’re going to get better. We have to improve everyone. D.T., Chris, Aqib Talib and Von (Miller); we have to all improve. As coaches, we’re all improving every day.”
"When you have the best working against each other every day like that, they’re going to get better." - Vance Josephhttps://t.co/Fl3nSJOTcC— Broncos TV (@BroncosTV) July 28, 2017
As for why that intensity is back at the UCHealth Training Center, it’s deeper than wanting to taste the championship again. There are the changes in the coaching staff and personnel. That brings in changes to the system that also forces everyone in the franchise to recalibrate. The Broncos have been forced to adapt to a new set of rules and philosophy. If you don’t, you could see yourself out of a job. As cliche as it is, and John Fox would love this, you have to get better each time you step foot on the practice field; especially this time of year.
“We kind of just started from scratch,” Harris said. “We hit a little reset on the defensive side with (defensive coordinator) Joe Woods. That’s the thing he’s been preaching, just have that reset — forget about what happened with what we did in that Super Bowl year and what we did last year and kind of start over, have new goals, and try to win every day.”
Of course we are two days into training camp. Just like the Mondays after regular season games, this is the time of year people tend to overreact and get carried away. The intensity at practice is important, even crucial, but the Broncos have to sustain that between now and the end of December. Remember, Denver started last season 4-0, and head-on crashed into the wall. Perhaps that was due to the lack of focus and intensity this time last season. But as receiver Emmanuel Sanders said after Friday’s practice, the Broncos have to figure out what led to that crash.
#Broncos Harris admits team had hangover from Super Bowl win. Talk this camp has been hitting 'reset' button. Intensity real in practice— Troy Renck (@TroyRenck) July 28, 2017
“We missed the playoffs last year,” Sanders said. “Being in this city the past four years, it’s championship or nothing. Last year, even though we won the Super Bowl the previous year, last year was bad by not making the playoffs and not being productive. We have John Elway as our GM, and intensity is what they’re preaching. ‘Championship Habits’ is what they’re preaching because we have to get back on top and that’s what we’re doing. How do we do that? By the intensity that we do out on the practice field and everyone understands that.”
Added Bradley Roby, on the intensity of last year’s training camp compared to this year’s: “I definitely see a difference - between the offense, defense, everything. We’re light years ahead of where we were last year.”
From the start of the 2016 season, the Broncos were as hungover as a co-ed on spring break. They tasted championship glory and spent the rest of the time huddled around a toilet. If the first two days of training camp are an indication, Denver wants to taste that championship again. More than that, the Broncos have the drive and intensity to bring that goal to life.