Happy 70th Birthday, Floyd Little!

Happy Birthday, Franchise.

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New blackout rule unlikely to curb fan abuse Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Just two days ago we applauded news that the NFL would be relaxing its blackout rules, thus allowing more hometown fans to watch games on TV.

But there's of course a catch, and the Chargers - who accounted for two of the league's sixteen blackouts last season, with four blackouts the year before - say they will not take advantage of the change.

Traditionally, when a team fails to sell out a game, local fans get screwed over by losing the ability to watch that game on television. The idea here is that the blackout rule encourages fans to attend games in person and drop $100 for a ticket, $40 for parking, and $10 per beer, rather than stay on the couch, watch the game for free, and change the channel during commercials and halftime. As if that's a reasonable choice for many people.

Of all the NFL policies that serve to abuse its loyal fans, there's probably nothing worse than the blackout rule. Fans in areas like San Diego are stressing about whether they'll actually see the upcoming game, rather than anticipating it with excitement. And obviously, plenty of these fans cannot afford the time or money required to attend games in person.

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Tackling the fundamentals

Jack Del Rio hadn’t been with the Denver Broncos for long when he announced flatly that the team was going to stress defensive fundamentals in 2012. The two areas that he mentioned directly were establishing a much stronger emphasis on proper tackling and a game-shaping recognition that the best pass defense is a defensive line that constantly harrasses the quarterback. Rookies Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson were the choices for strengthening the defensive line. In the team’s choices for potential linebackers out of the 2011 class, Del Rio has gained the people to attack both problems.

As I’ve mentioned before, sixth-round linebacker Danny Trevathan was playing with the first string nickel package during the last of the June OTAs. Trevathan, you’ll recall, led the SEC in tackling over both the 2010 (144 tackles) and 2011 (143 tackles) seasons. Danny also led the nation’s linebackers with five forced fumbles last year.

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Broncos sign Prater to four-year deal

John Elway announced the Broncos have signed placekicker Matt Prater to a four-year deal:

Happy to announce we have signed kicker Matt Prater to a new four-year deal. This was the final piece in setting our roster for camp, and we are thrilled Matt is going to be a Bronco for a long time. Matt has developed into one of the NFL’s elite kickers and is a big part of our team.

Denver had used its franchise tag on Prater earlier in the offseason, but the seventh-year kicker had not signed it, and skipped the team's recent OTAs with negotiations ongoing. The two sides had faced a July 16 deadline to agree to a long-term deal.

Updated 10:41am ET July 3, 2012 to correct statistics (PFR is missing Prater's 2009 distance splits)

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Shame on Mark Kiszla Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! There's nothing happening in the football world, but one can always rely upon the Denver Post for low-hanging fruit to bat around.

Mark Kiszla wrote a blatantly xenophobic column about the Nuggets' draft the other day, got called out for it, and his reaction is rather pathetic.

It's this simple: the lazy, ugly angle Kiszla took is no better (and hardly any different) than criticizing the pick based upon the color of the guy's skin or the way his name sounds. It's one thing to stir up one's readers to debate an athlete's skills, but it's altogether something else to incite them over a player's country of origin.

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1990s Broncos inspired RGIII to play football Lard

Good Afternoon, Broncos fans! Only days after pushing late kickoffs back 10 minutes, the NFL will reportedly make more important changes to improve the gameday experience for both ticketholders and home viewers:

  1. Teams will have the flexibility to set blackout thresholds as low as 85%, allowing teams to both add seating and avoid blackouts
  2. During replay reviews, fans in attendance will be able to see the same footage as officials
  3. Fans will no longer be on their own when it comes to creating noise before key downs; of course, this will be key with the wine and cheese crowd at SAF@MH
  4. Some or all stadiums will finally have free WiFi
  5. Smartphone apps will allow fans to listen to mic'd up players

All of these changes are welcome and long overdue, especially those first three items. Along with the later kickoffs and the coming availability of All-22 film, the league has taken several fan-friendly steps of late. It's not often we say this, but well done, NFL.

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Donovan McNabb is starting to sound like Terrell Owens Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Yesterday marked the first annual Drive for Dinger, a golf tournament held at Vanderbilt to honor the late Mike Heimerdinger. Of course, Dinger was a longtime Broncos, Titans, and Jets coach, and the college roommate who saved Mike Shanahan's life after he had ruptured a kidney during practice at Eastern Illinois.

Shanahan, Gary Kubiak, Rick Dennison, Jay Cutler, and Brandon Marshall were among those who gathered in Tennessee yesterday to honor their late friend/coach. Said Kubes, "I really miss him. It’s still hard to believe."

The kindest words for Dinger surprisingly came from Marshall, who tends to be quite stingy in his praise for coaches:

That first year, he was on me. He treated me like a rookie, but it was for my best interest. He has a talent for pushing people to the limit, but keeping that respect there, getting the most out of people and also showing them love at the same time.

RIP, Dinger.

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Weekly Limerick Schtick

You can stop emailing me. Back by popular demand, it's peanut butter jelly time--otherwise known as IAOFM's Weekly Limerick Schtick.  This week's topic? Demaryius Thomas' route tree:

Demaryius Thomas so free
did not run the routes from the tree.
But the Teebs is gone,
replaced by The Don
of quarterbacks John could decree.

Take your own shot--if you've got something clever and can remember the finer arts of anapest meter. Or you may be drunk.  In that case, just try and rhyme without passing out.

27-year-old ex-NFLer suffering “almost total loss of function” Lard

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! Another sad story has emerged regarding the health of a former NFL player, although it's not the typical tale of a longtime player suffering in his 50s or 60s. This time, it's a 27-year-old whom Tampa Bay drafted in the second round of the 2007 Draft. Arron Sears left the Bucs in 2009 under worrisome circumstances, as the Tampa Bay Times reported at the time:

When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers held offseason workouts in mid March, guard Arron Sears was there. But he wasn't the person teammates and coaches remembered. He was distant, even for someone with his shy demeanor. Sears participated for several weeks, until shortly after the team's minicamp in April, when he simply stopped communicating. He was unresponsive when asked questions. At times, he resorted to replying in writing.

Unfortunately, things haven't gotten better for Sears, on whose behalf his parents filed a suit claiming the NFL, helmet maker Riddell, the Bucs, and other teams were negligent and withheld information on concussions and their effects. A portion of the suit reads:

Sears has almost total loss of function, is unable to care for himself and cannot take (care) of his day-to-day activities. Further, Arron Sears has extreme displays of temper and anger with the appurtenant risk of causing harm to himself and others.

According to the TBT, Sears has been taken into protective custody by the police on several occasions in the past two years, and the lawsuit, which has two other ex-Bucs as plaintiffs, says Arron is now under the guardianship of his parents. Let's hope things take a positive turn for Sears and his family, as unlikely as that may seem.

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NFL pushes 4:15pm kickoffs back 10 minutes

In a move sure to help Broncos fans miss fewer great endings and Denver kickoffs, the NFL announced it will push back all 4:15pm ET kickoffs to 4:25pm ET.

According to the league's research, over the past three seasons, doubleheaders forced TV networks to switch away from 66 games that were still ongoing. The NFL says this 10-minute shift would have prevented 51 of those Heidi-style preemptions.

Although this was likely not a problem for Broncos fans in the Mountain West viewing area, those of us who live elsewhere have all experienced the agony of waiting for some Jaguars/Titans snoozer to conclude while we miss Denver's opening possession or two. Sometimes, of course, this serves to save us from even worse pain, ala the 59-14 drubbing by the Raiders in 2010, when many of us were spared Oakland's first two scores.

Updated 12:24pm ET

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