It creeps up on me every year: last Wednesday was Walter Payton’s birthday, and that’s something I like to celebrate.
He would have been 58.
Walter was cut down far too early of a rare autoimmune liver disease known as primary sclerosing cholangitis, which may have led to his cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer). But it’s his birth, rather than his death, that I like to remember. Somehow, I will always recall Payton as a man in his prime, exuberantly full of life.
He was not the first great running back I ever saw. I’ve been watching football for over five decades now, and I’ve seen a lot of the great backs, including watching Gale Sayers at Wrigley Field when I was still small.
Back then, football was just discovering the power of television to capture viewers with new angles and shots. They were starting to follow the players who controlled the path of the ball, finding new perspectives to show the big hits and big plays, so running backs got an increasing amount of airtime. I watched so many great ones - Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Eric Dickerson. More recently, I’ve gotten to enjoy the power and skill of Terrell Davis, Mike Anderson, LaDainian Tomlinson and countless others. Payton was perhaps the best of them all, and for far more reasons than just his running skills. They called him ‘Sweetness’, and he was every bit of that.
A crystal ball is not required to predict the 2012 Broncos will struggle to reach the 9.5-win threshold set for them by the folks in Vegas. It will be a continuing theme around here that Denver faces some serious question marks.
But citing the historical precedent of teams whose records outperform their point differentials, like Bill Barnwell does, is a bit much.
We're no strangers to the fact that last season, Denver's 8-8 record exceeded their expected 5.8-10.2 record as suggested by their paltry 309 points for and subpar 390 points against.
But we'll continue to argue that the poor point differential owed more to the lack of a functioning quarterback than anything else. 309 points is a pittance, and was even aided by five non-offensive touchdowns (only four teams got a higher cut of their touchdowns from other units).
Good Morning, Broncos fans! Attendance once more topped the 4,000 mark at Dove Valley, and several Denver legends, including Karl Mecklenburg, were again part of the action yesterday (video, more video, photos, more photos).
The Snow Goose, who is coaching in an unofficial capacity, says John Elway has made it clear that his fellow Broncos royalty are welcome around the team. But as Andrew Mason stresses, there's a line between honoring alumni and accepting their assistance, and living in the past ala Al Davis's Raiders.
Chris Kuper continues to share first-team reps at right guard with Manny Ramirez, while Orlando Franklin apparently suffered a mild concussion on Saturday - not the neck crick that had been described earlier; Chris Clark (not Ryan Harris) is working in his spot. Quinton Carter's hamstring again kept him out of practice, while Justin Bannan apparently reaggravated his calf injury.
Good Morning, Broncos fans! Denver put on the pads yesterday for the first time since January (video, more video, photos, more photos), with the offense apparently getting a leg up on the defense for the day. Mike McCoy and Jack Del Rio spoke afterward, and Tom Jackson chatted with John Elway (videos).
During the morning session, Quinton Carter remained sidelined with his hamstring injury, while Justin Bannan and Chris Kuper took their initial first-team snaps of camp. Peyton Manning and Eric Decker were standouts, and Broncos royalty was in attendance in the form of Terrell Davis and Karl Mecklenburg; the Snow Goose is helping coach the pass rush in an unofficial capacity. Brock Osweiler practiced holding for field goals, while Philip Blake worked on snapping to the QBs.
In the evening walkthrough, Chris Clark stood in for Orlando Franklin at right tackle after Franklin tweaked his neck earlier in the day.
Denver added former CU Buffs safety Anthony Perkins a day after second-year safety Quinton Carter suffered a hamstring injury.
The 23-year-old takes one of the roster spots left vacant by the release of WR Eric Page and CB Coryell Judie after the two undrafted rookies failed their physicals on Wednesday.
Perkins had participated in Denver's rookie camp in May as a non-roster invitee, and will wear number 43; his last two seasons at Colorado were marred by injury, but he ranks 41st on the school's all-time tackles list. Anthony is the grandson of Dallas Cowboys Ring of Famer and six-time Pro Bowler Don Perkins.
The first week of training camp is too early to tell most things. There were some things that stood out, though, and these seemed to be worth watching:
1. Friday was only Day 2, but second-round draft pick Derek Wolfe was turning some heads with his intensity and focus. He’s been running with the second unit as the RDE, but given the talent in front of him, I would have been shocked if they started him any higher. He’s going to have to put on some muscle weight to make it into the interior on the first two downs, but he was placed with the first team nickel unit in Friday’s work. That’s a place that he might get some reps this season - it suits his quickness and technique.
I’ve been following Derek as much as possible and he’s made it clear that unlike a lot of defensive linemen just out of college, he understands that what he’s doing is technique intensive, technique dependent. That’s going to serve him well. He also seems to have a heck of an attitude - prepared, hard working, and totally committed. This is not a guy I’d worry about off the field - he’s busy. He’s working out, studying the playbook, or studying film. When guys in the offseason tweet about commitment on Saturday night, or talk about how they were just getting back from working out, it’s a good sign.
Brandon Stokley practiced after missing Thursday's action with the flu, and Chris Kuper performed position drills. Quinton Carter suffered a hamstring injury, and Justin Bannan remains sidelined with a calf injury. Champ Bailey and Julius Thomas sat out team drills, while Knowshon Moreno caught passes in seven-on-seven drills. The coaches apparently wanted to save Champ the punishment of practicing on artificial turf.
Mike Adams surprisingly joined Andre Caldwell, Matt Willis, Ronnie Hillman, and Omar Bolden in returning kickoffs. During his eight NFL seasons, Adams has returned only two kicks, both last season.
Sometimes you wake up and you go through the motions; other times, you feel a Limerick coming on.
Unrein on the line is unreal,
and larger this year--sex appeal.
he brings it each day,
from practice squad to tungsten steel.
Let it breathe. Then try your own in the comment section. The worst thing that can happen is laughter.
Stuart Zaas of the official site slipped an interesting little nugget into his summary of yesterday afternoon's walkthrough practice:
After he was done taking first-team reps, Manning worked with [Chris] Kuper on snapping the ball.
Does this mean anything? Probably not. Manning is a noted workaholic. Give him five minutes and he'll burn off the time with yet another drill.
We're not reading much into this. Still, for those about to speculate, we
salute poll(ute) you.
(H/t: Kaleb Harvey, for the heads up.)
Happy Friday, Broncos fans! In accordance with the new CBA's ban on full-contact two-a-days, the Broncos held a private walkthrough yesterday evening to complete the first day of training camp. RG Chris Kuper, who had not worked with the starters during morning practice, was back with them for the evening.
As for that morning session (BTV, photos), the departure of undrafted rookie Eric Page, who was waived due to a knee injury, left Eric Decker, Syd'Quan Thompson, Tracy Porter, and Drayton Florence to field punts. C.J. Davis was the backup center, meaning rookie Philip Blake isn't just competing with starter J.D. Walton for the spot, if he is at all.