When it comes to running marathons, pace is always the key. How fast you run in the first few miles won’t necessarily determine where you’ll finish in the race.
After the second day of Denver Broncos training camp on Sunday, Derek Wolfe made that comparison and it fits like an old, comfortable running shoe. At the tail end of of his reply to a question about easing veterans back into full reps, Wolfe gave us all the key to the next two weeks.
“This is a marathon,” he said. “The season is a marathon. Training camp’s a marathon. It all takes time. You have to take it day by day, snap by snap, rep by rep.”
After the last two years, it’s hard not to get carried away with what we’ve seen on the field from Case Keenum and the offense. The unit looks crisp and smooth. Keenum’s command of the huddle is so clear it burns your eyes. Prior to his second set of reps in 11 vs. 11, he ran into the huddle, took a knee and showed the leadership the offense has lacked from that position. When you see those little things for the first time in two years, you remember how imperative it is to an offense.
In the next breath, it’s been two practice sessions, and the team hasn’t even put pads on. Embrace the excitement you feel (we all deserve it), but keep the other details in the back of your mind as we move forward. Denver is off to a great start, but there’s two still weeks of camp to go.
“I just want to see us bust our butts and work hard,” Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders said. “We all know what it’s supposed to look like, and as long as you’re hustling and you’re getting in shape — we’re out here making plays. Not only making easy plays, but tough plays. That right there leads to what we’re going to do in the games. What we’re going to do on the practice field is what we’re going to do in the game, hands down.
“You don’t just show up on a Sunday and be like ‘Oh!’ On Sundays you’re like, ‘Oh, we’ve seen that catch a million times.’ Right now, (New York Giants receiver) Odell Beckham is making those one-handed catches. That translates into the game. What we are right now is what we’re going to be on Sundays, and so we’ve got to get it right out here.”
The players and coaches know the rough practice sessions will come. How the Broncos respond to those situations will play a big role in the continued development of the team. The organization no longer travels to Greeley for camp, but that doesn’t make the task any less arduous.
“That’s the hard part with training camp because it’s long and it’s hard and you have these long days,” Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. “You want these guys to stay engaged, and that’s my job to keep changing practice and changing the pace to keep guys kind of surprised on a daily basis. If guys are bored, it’s my fault, so I’m going to keep it moving so we can keep the pace and keep the focus with our football team.”
The key for Joseph and his coaching staff is to keep the players engaged — on the field and off.
“It’s huge. We meet more than we practice,” he said. “That’s every NFL team because you can’t come out here and go three or four hours days and kill your team, so you spend a lot of time in meetings. That’s important. We do a good job of meeting our guys for 30-40 minutes and having a break — refocus our guys. Our staff does a great job of the pictures they show guys to keep them engaged. Players want to see pictures. They want to see themselves also. We do a great job of having a plan each meeting of showing the players themselves do it right and do it wrong, so we can correct it. That’s huge in our league to maximize your meeting time.”
Added Wolfe: “Training camp, you have to keep yourself in this bubble. Yeah, it’s OK to see your family and stuff, but you have to be engaged. Nothing but football matters right now, and that’s the sacrifice that we make. We have to sacrifice time with our families, time with anything, time with just our regular life. We have to sacrifice that because this is our life now. Until February, this is our life, so nothing else really matters except this, and it’s really important to develop that during training camp. To stay engaged in meetings. Walk-throughs need to be top notch. There can’t be any goofing around. You have to learn how to work and have fun at the same time and you do that by being engaged in what you’re doing. If you’re goofing about something that has nothing to do with what we’re doing, then you’re not engaged. He’s (Joseph) right on that. You have to stay engaged in the game the whole time.”
Bask in the Broncos’ strong start to training camp. Allow yourself to feel excitement about how crisp and smooth the offense looks, but also what it could look like with more time on the field. Also remember it’s been just two days. The inevitable hiccups of camp will come. How the Broncos respond may tell us more about what the team looks like than the last two days have. How engaged the players remain over the next two weeks will limit the burnout that comes with a quick start in a marathon.
“Engagement is everything — communication, communication, communication,” Sanders said. “Just speaking the truth out on the football field. If you messed up, say you messed up. Have accountability, and then just speak up. If you messed up, say it. If a guy makes a good play, uplift him. That’s what we’re about, and that’s the goal. We’re just working our butts off and trying to see what we can accomplish.”