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School is still in session for the Broncos

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While classes are coming to an end for most students, the Broncos are just getting started with their "schooling."

DenverBroncos.com

Good morning, Broncos Country!

As schools are coming to an end for most students across the country, the Broncos are just revving up their education.

And the new coaching staff's teacher-like mentality is exactly what this Broncos' team has needed.

All these guys are athletic, all know how to play football but what they've lacked on occasion - and often on important occasion - has been the ability to "play the game."

Sure, we have veterans and rookies who are - or have been - the top in their positions. And that is a superb starting point. But not being able to effectively apply their own best skills to the benefit of the entire team has been the missing link - the missing coaching link.

Not anymore. School is in session, and now we have coaches who mesh extremely well together and continue to show their strength in bringing that cohesion to the field and teaching it to their players.

Veteran defensive end Antonio Smith, who has been reunited with his old Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, says he is loving his new team - in large part because of Phillips and defensive line coach Bill Kollar.

"I'm loving it. I'm enjoying every day," said Smith, aka Ninja Slayer (who doesn't use this nickname nearly enough) but does say "Big Daddy" to any teammate whose name he doesn't know. "The D-Line has to know the whole playbook. We've got everything down and [Kollar] goes over it every day."

But that's not the main reason this defensive scheme will work well here, says Smith. It's the coaching staff's adaptation of it.

"I think the whole defensive coaching staff is real good at knowing what you can do and letting you use it to your advantage," Smith said. "Sometimes coaches get big into fitting you into the mold or the framework of how they run things. Wade, he studies you. If you can do [something] best, then he wants to make his defense work best with you doing this."

If you all haven't noticed yet, Kollar is his own personality and he's real fiery. No matter who you are, he wants a lot. And he really wants to bring out the best in you. -Antonio Smith, defensive end

And for these coaches - Kollar in particular - the expectation for players to do their job to make the adapted scheme work is priority No. 1.

"If you all haven't noticed yet, [Kollar] is his own personality, and he's real fiery," Smith said, pleading with the media in jest not to put a mic on the bear wrestler.

"No matter who you are, [Kollar] wants a lot. I think that really helped me out in Houston. That little extra drive and push. ... His style of coaching, some may not like and some may not agree with and others may take it personal, but I think that one thing that I found out is that in his heart he really wants to truly bring out the best of you that he can."

I have to think it is a special skill in the NFL to be able to effectively "coach" all the egos and all the personalities. It sounds like Gary Kubiak and Co. have it figured out - everyone needs to learn.

Earlier this week, Denver Post's Troy Renck wrote an outstanding piece on offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, which sheds some light on the special bond Kubiak and Dennison have had for decades while coaching together.

Dennison, who has a graduate degree in engineering and taught high school math while coaching football at a prep school after he retired from playing for the Broncos, looks at the offense like a math problem, breaking down the parts that eventually add up to one whole.

"Kubiak tells Dennison the final answer he desires. Dennison then creates the equation, filling in the variables," writes Renck.

Luckily Manning also speaks the "student" language and is thriving in this educational environment. From Renck:

"[Manning] remembers everything. Has tons of questions on plays, footwork, you name it," Dennison said. "He has been great to work with."

In Dennison, Manning has found a coach who shares his quest for answers.

"You're always learning out there," Manning said. "As soon as you stop learning, something is not going right."

James Casey added to this narrative earlier this week. Casey, a tight end who began his NFL career under Kubiak and Dennison at the Texans and was recently acquired from the Eagles, had always heard about Manning's work ethic.

"But when you actually see it first hand, it's very impressive," Casey said of his new quarterback.

"He's learning a little bit of a new system, too," Casey added. "Just how he is taking everything, how hard he works, how disciplined he is and how he studies, he holds everybody else accountable. ...It's obvious to see why he has been so successful."

It would appear this overall emphasis on learning is rubbing off on the young guys too, including Cody Latimer.

The second-year receiver acknowledged this week that he's "more mentally into it this year" and rather than worrying about impressing Manning, he's putting in the extra work at home by hitting the books - hard.

"I spend extra time with coaches after practice," Latimer told AP's Arnie Stapleton. "In meeting rooms, actually paying attention. Last year, just a mess-up on my part. But this year, I'm making sure I don't have that same downfall."

I'm betting report cards on this team are going to be much better this year.

Deflategate saga continues

I should have known that Tom Brady's hilarious-if-not-ridiculous "It's only been 30 hours" excuse for not being able to respond to the Wells Report last week would only be topped in absurdity by the actual response - a website called The Wells Report in Context.

The Patriots issued a 20,000-word rebuttal via the website on Thursday while Brady's agent and the NFLPA also submitted an appeal of the four-game suspension levied on the MVP quarterback (excuse me, I mean on the lying MVP).

In a point-by-point rebuttal, the Patriots point to a lack of hard evidence and proper context in the Wells report, highlighting the fact that nothing in the report shows definitively that Brady specifically requested the psi of the footballs to be below the legal 12.5 psi.

More than that though, this report is a slap in the face to the NFL as the Patriots take their grievances to the court of public opinion, and I sincerely hope the NFL commissioner recognizes it as such. The fact that Roger Goodell has decided to hear Brady's appeal himself rather than appoint a neutral arbiter as requested signifies he gets this.

Make no mistake, Brady, the reason for your suspension was lack of cooperation more than anything. If the Wells report were so out of context, then why didn't you just hand over your texts for clarification? Exactly.

Either way, the long (and I'm guessing boring) response by the Patriots is not nearly as troubling as the method in which they did it. Trying to capitalize on their fans' public outrage to help their cause is unprofessional and immature. Then again, that seems to fit perfectly with this franchise. Disrespect for the league is exactly what we've come to expect.

The Patriots' attempt to explain the text in which the ball boy calls himself "the deflator" was not referring to psi at all but rather his need to lose weight is my absolute favorite for absurdity.

Like I noted last week, you just can't make this stuff up.

For anyone who cannot get enough of this insanity, there is a course on Deflategate being offered at the University of New Hampshire this fall, taught by Sports Illustrated's sports law guru, Michael McCann. I wish I were making that up.


Class with T.J. Ward and Purpose 2 Play

A class I would enjoy is "On Deck," a high school journalism program offered through the T.J. Ward Foundation and Purpose 2 Play.

These teenagers have interviewed Ward and Aqib Talib and come away with not just a great experience, but some really good stories.

In their first feature on Talib, the students hit on what might be the most plausible explanation yet for why the Broncos corner has found himself in some unfortunate situations with his older brother.

The reason why Talib took an interest in football is because of his brother, Yaqub, who was "the best one in the neighborhood."

"He would be the captain and pick his little brother first over all the older dudes," Talib said. "So I always got a chance to play."

In fact, whenever Yaqub wanted to practice, he called on his little brother.

"When he needed somebody to throw the ball to, I was there," Talib said. "He'd go outside and say ‘Come on, bro. Let's go play catch or something.'"

In short - Talib thinks the world of his brother. And anyone who has an older sibling can probably attest to that bond.

The aspiring journalists followed up this week with a feature on Ward and how he overcame the death of a friend to stay focused on football.

Awesome reporting, On Deck!


And finally...Horse Tracks!

Terrell Davis: 'No one more deserving' than Pat Bowlen
Terrell Davis calls Pat Bowlen's election to Ring of Fame personal because of his respect for the owner.

Pat Bowlen: From son of a wildcatter to Ring of Fame
Denver Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen was elected into the Ring of Fame on Wednesday.

A.J. Feeley says he witnessed Patriots use doctored footballs | ProFootballTalk
Former NFL quarterback A.J. Feeley says the Patriots were breaking the rules about properly preparing footballs long before Deflategate. Feeley said on 97.

Inside Slant: Robert Kraft's break from NFL authority
The Patriots' rebuttal to the Wells report is one of the most direct challenges to league authority in recent NFL history.

Poll shows fans support NFL sanctions against Tom Brady
NFL fans, by nearly a 2-1 margin, support the league's sanctions against Patriots QB Tom Brady and the team, and more than half think Brady himself cheated.

Browns LB insinuates that Patriots cheated during game in 2008 - CBSSports.com
Karlos Dansby claims that his headset mysteriously stopped working during a trip to New England in 2008.

The NFL's Super Bowl invitation to Tom Brady is now rich with irony | Shutdown Corner - Yahoo Sports
From Yahoo Sports: The NFL is inviting Tom Brady to a prestigious Super Bowl ceremony. Think he'll show up?

Denver Broncos make claim on Solomon Patton with return job in mind
The Denver Broncos made a waiver claim on Solomon Patton this week.

Does Denver Broncos outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware deserve to be higher on the top 100? - NFL Videos
NFL Media's Chris Wesseling and Marc Sessler react to the "Top 100" list of 2015 and discuss which players deserve to be ranked higher.

Denver Broncos: Offseason Questions Yield Glory or Doom?
The Denver Broncos tackled lots of problems this offseason, but failed to answer questions left in their wake. Does Peyton Manning have enough to win big?

Jack Del Rio: Raiders want to bring 'swagger' back - NFL.com
The Oakland Raiders have gone through 12 consecutive losing seasons. New coach Jack Del Rio wants to bring back the mentality and swagger from the early Raider dynasty.

Jones: Cowboys' running game better than last season - NFL.com
Jerry Jones reiterated his faith in the Dallas Cowboys' stable of running backs. The owner said he believes the totality of the running game is actually better than last season.

Steven Jackson wants to play for a winner - NFL.com
Former Rams and Falcons running back Steven Jackson would like to keep his NFL career alive, but only if it means playing for a legitimate contender.

Report: Robert Turbin recovering from hip surgery - NFL.com
Seattle Seahawks running back Robert Turbin reportedly underwent offseason hip surgery. Despite going under the knife, Turbin is expected to be ready for the upcoming 2015 season.