Talegating: Mark Herzlich

It’s one of the most inspiring stories in this year’s draft: He was born Sandon Mark Herzlich, Jr., on September 1, 1987, to Sandon and Barbara Herzlich, and became known as Mark. He also has a younger brother, Bradley. They’re a close-knit family, a factor that played a role in his recovery from being diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma in 2009, a cancer that attacks bones, and which took away part of his left femur, the bone in the thigh, which has been replaced by a 12-inch titanium rod. Mark moved back to be nearer to them in that time.

Herzlich has won a multitude of awards for the way that he handled his disease, and the way that he created outreach opportunities to convince other sufferers that they could beat their cancers, recover and have any life that appealed to them. He won the Rudy Award in 2010 - an honor that’s given to a college football player each year who shows exemplary character, courage, contribution and commitment. It was presented to Herzlich's father at the American Football Coaches Association convention in Dallas. It was only one of many. He was also given the ACC’s Brian Piccolo Award for the most courageous player during his senior year. 

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The Daily Lard 4-14-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Alabama DT Marcell Dareus and LSU CB Patrick Peterson visited Dove Valley yesterday, while next Monday will bring Illinois RB Mikel Leshoure to town. On Tuesday the Broncos will host Auburb QB Cam Newton, Abilene Christian WR Edmond Gates and Baylor RB Jay Finley, and on Wednesday Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert, Villanova OT Ben Ijalana and K-State RB Daniel Thomas will visit.

John Elway described Dareus as "big, strong, he comes from a good background. Reliable. His traits are all good," while describing Peterson as a "big guy who can run. Athletic. All he did in college was play bump, man coverage. So he has that experience. Plus, he's explosive in the return game."

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Broncography: LB Braxton Kelley

As the silly season of mock drafts and GM-speak ratchets up to full gear, it's easy to lose sight of the second and third columns of the depth charts. There's been plenty of chatter about the Broncos potentially drafting Von Miller out of Texas A&M to upgrade their linebacker corps. But for today, let's hop off the rumor/speculation carousel and focus on what Denver actually has in terms of young linebacking talent: Braxton Kelley.

Kelley was introduced to the Broncos as an undersized 6’0”, 226 lb. college free agent in 2009, a player many of us had hoped would turn out to be another Wesley Woodyard. He spent his rookie season on the practice squad and under strength and conditioning coach Rich Tuten’s constant tutelage (along with Tuten’s assistants, Greg Saporta and Justin Lovett). Kelley suffered an injury in June of 2010 and was placed on IR, but he's stayed with his training while recovering from his injury and has emerged from the experience as a 242-lb middle linebacker on a team that is in dire need of faster linebackers and talented depth. Kelley’s 40 time leading up to the 2009 Draft was 4.74, with a peak time of 4.65 - he was hardly a burner, but his speed was more than functional since he has an explosive first step and takes great angles to the ball. He was in a classic situation:  a player who played much faster on the field than he timed in a straight line 40.

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Bradshaw applause Lard 4-13-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Legendary QB and now FOX analyst Terry Bradshaw played 14 seasons for the Steelers, winning four Super Bowls, one league MVP award and two SB MVPs; he was inducted into the Pro Football HOF in 1989. But leading the greatest NFL dynasty of modern times has come with a heavy price, as Bradshaw watched the deterioration of his own late teammate Mike Webster, who passed away in 2002 at the age of 50 and in whose brain CTE was first discovered.

More recently, Bradshaw has been experiencing his own concussion-related troubles, including short-term memory loss, anxiety and depression. Thankfully, Bradshaw has decided to come forward and share the details of his problems while encouraging more of his fellow NFL retirees to do the same. There may be no former player more nationally visible than the affable Bradshaw, so let's all hope he is not only able to defeat his own condition, but to remain vocal about concussion and player safety issues, because he can make a real difference. Way to go, Terry.

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Broncos’ 2011 preseason schedule released

The Broncos announced their preseason opponents today:

Wk. 1 at Dallas (Aug. 11-15)
Wk. 2 vs. Buffalo (Aug. 18-22)
Wk. 3 vs. Seattle (Aug. 25-29)
Wk. 4 at Arizona (Sept. 1-2)

As previously announced, the Broncos' regular season slate will feature home games versus Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, New England and the NJ Jets, with road games at Buffalo, Green Bay, Miami, Minnesota and Tennessee, along with the customary home and away games versus division rivals Kansas City, Oakland and San Diego. Times and dates for both the exhibition and regular seasons will be announced later in the month.

Mindfreak: Jake Locker on the Grassy Knoll

Something happened to Jake Locker on his way to becoming the next John Elway.

His senior season.

Does John Elway care?

At this time last year, Locker was both victim and beneficiary of the hype machine (the same machine that now has its sights set on Andrew Luck).  Had Locker declared for the NFL draft as a junior, it's very possible that he, not Sam Bradford, would be the QB for the St. Louis Rams.   

Consider what Mel Kiper Jr. said about Locker last April:

If you had to ask me right now who is going to be the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft, I would say it's etched in stone it's going to be Jake Locker. You can mark that down. Jake Locker, if he's not the No. 1 pick, it's an upset.

That's certainly high praise from the high priest of draft geeks (otherwise known as guys I could shove into a locker with one arm)

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Professorial Lard 4-12-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Just when everyone was getting all riled up by our favorite egghead, a few John Clayton smackdowns have been delivered, the most effective one shockingly coming from Bill Williamson, of all people. The ESPN writers took the two sides of the draft-a-QB / start-Tim-Tebow debate, and Williamson comes off as a well-informed logician next to Clayton in stating that Tebow deserves the chance to run with the starting gig.

Then, there was Clayton's column from last week which posited that teams are suddenly adopting a general strategy of not drafting running backs in the first round because they just don't need to do so. Thankfully, Pat Kirwan and then Bucky Brooks are both here to explain that perhaps there's just nobody in this year's draft worthy of a first-rounder, save perhaps Mark Ingram of Bama. What do you suppose it's like going through life thinking there's a massive sea change involved in everything that happens and that you are the one person who knows it?

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Scouting the Broncos: Cornerbacks

Although no team in recent memory has complained of having too many talented cornerbacks, Denver is in a good situation at this time. There are factors that could change that - such as the possibility that Perrish Cox is convicted in his sexual assault case and does jail time - but as things stand today, Denver has a fairly nice group at the CB position. Here’s the breakdown:

# Name Ht Wt Age Exp School 2011 Salary Signed Through
24 Champ Bailey 6-0 192 32 12 Georgia $11,000,000 2014
32 Perrish Cox 6-0 198 24 R Oklahoma State $405,000 2013
21 Andre' Goodman 5-10 184 32 9 South Carolina $2,880,000 2013
29 Chevis Jackson 5-11 193 25 3 LSU $555,000 2011
33 Nate Jones 5-10 185 28 7 Rutgers $800,000 2013
22 Syd'Quan Thompson 5-9 191 24 R California $405,000 2013
41 Cassius Vaughn 5-11 195 23 R Mississippi $405,000 2012

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The Daily Lard 4-11-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! In today's MMQB, PK writes that the Panthers appear to be leaning towards drafting Cam Newton first overall, because Carolina wants to see game tape from Newton's juco days. The only (minor flaw) with that logic, of course, is that Newton only played one year at Auburn and thus his juco days were only two years ago. Shouldn't every team be looking at those tapes? After all, one would hope/think that before making such impactful decisions that teams examine more than one season's worth of notes and game tape, no? But okay, sure. They're going with Newton. Let's hope so, and we can move on and Denver will have either their pick of the defensive litter or a chance to move back in a trade as part of the Blaine Gabbert sweepstakes?

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The Daily Lard 4-10-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! In his Sunday column, Dan Pompei considers the possible growing importance of interior linemen in today's game, as more pressure and sacks have apparently been coming from up the middle in recent years. Pompei writes that shorter pass drops may be to blame, and of course this only magnifies the Broncos' already desperate need at defensive tackle. Plus, Pompei is hearing that Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert was actually quite impressive in his combine interviews and team visits (in contrast to the reports that he's the next Jay Cutler) and that Von Miller should be a playmaker immediately.

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