Brittany Bowlen accepts donations on "Alzheimer's Awareness Day" at Sunday's Training Camp Practice. (Photo: Brandon Krisztal/KOA News Radio.
Day 4 of Broncos Training Camp was filled with a bit of a “Purple Haze” and I say that in the most positive of ways.
Once a year during camp, the Broncos hold an “Alzheimer’s Awareness Day” to raise awareness and money to fight the terrible disease that Owner Pat Bowlen and his wife Annabel suffered from, and he, unfortunately lost his battle with in June.
Of course we’re used to seeing all of Broncos Country proudly sporting their Orange and Blue, but it’s cool to see the fans, staff and media alike all wear Purple and help raise money to battle the disease.
Five of Mr. B’s kids, Patrick, John, Brittany, Annabel and Christiana were all at the UCHealth Training Center, greeting fans as they entered the facility to watch practice, and taking donations to help the fight.
“It’s really incredible to see fans show up in their purple, Brittany Bowlen said. “It means that they actually looked at the schedule for training camp and knew that we were dedicating today to the Alzheimer’s Association and raising funds for my parents and all the other people who are suffering from this terrible disease. [It’s great] just to know that we have a community that supports us and to have such incredible fans.”
We’re less than 2 weeks away from Mr. B’s enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and we’ve heard since the announcement of his election, and reminded once he passed, that Mr. B. never sought fanfare or attention. Nonetheless, Broncos Country continues to show their love for the greatest owner in the history of sports in the Rocky Mountain Region.
“I think he’d be incredibly excited,” Patrick Bowlen said Sunday, “He wouldn’t expect this much support, but he’d be extremely proud of everyone and extremely happy for everyone that came.”
On the field you could feel the intensity ratchet up as the Broncos were in pads for the second straight day. Also noteworthy, the offense seemed to close the gap on the defense, who certainly was getting the best of their teammates through the first 3 days of practice.
New offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello downplayed the notion that the defense had been that much better than his unit.
“Getting in pads always makes things different,” he said. “It helps the run game, that's for sure. When you are practicing without pads on, it's hard to come off the ball in the run game and make it look the same. When you do that in our offense, it also makes the play action and keepers better. Naturally, I think when the pads come on, some things can look better, but I think I has been pretty much give-and-take. I think that they have the makings of a very solid defense, and they've got two great pass rushers. It can look choppy out there at times, but great players like that are going to do that. So far, I feel good about the progress, but there are some things we've got to clean up.”
I haven’t been the kindest to Kevin Hogan in recent days, but he did have a couple of nice throws today. He still threw some terrible passes, but it wasn’t all bad.
Yesterday, as well as today we saw Drew Lock get some work with the 2nd team offense against the first team defense. Today we saw fellow rookie QB Brett Rypien get one series with the 2nd unit against the 1st team defense. After the first play it seemed like he may be in over his head as he would’ve been sacked, but because it’s practice they let the play continue and he threw a pass intended for Brendan Langley that was way off the mark. But, Rypien looked like he belonged on the following three plays, completing three consecutive passes.
I asked Vic Fangio about Rypien working with the 2nd unit.
“We try to be cognizant of—a lot of teams only have three quarterbacks in camp,” Fangio said. “We have four. We are getting a fair amount of reps out there as it seems. Some days he’s going to get more that other. That’s just the way it goes, but I like Brett. Brett, I think, maybe, he’s got a future.”
Because the offense looked improved today, that meant certain players contributed to that improved play. One of the players who stood out was rookie 1st-round pick, Noah Fant. Yesterday it was pointed out that his teammates were getting on him a bit for not finishing drills/plays. Today he found the end zone and seemed to catch everything thrown his way.
Fangio was asked if he saw progress from Fant today. “Yeah, a little bit,” he said. “He caught my eye a few times, caught the ball and ran good after it. I think the big thing that happened today was guys are starting to get callused. One of the big things of training camp is you have to get callused to play NFL football. I think some of that started to form today, being the second day in pads, fourth day in a row, tomorrow will be the fifth. These guys are getting callused out there. It’s like the guy who swings the sledgehammer out in construction. First few days he’s got blisters and his shoulders are sore. Then by week two or three, he’s all good to go. That’s kind of what we’re working through right now.”
Following practice all three coordinators met the media.
Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell was complimentary of Chris Harris Jr. when he was asked about the 4-time Pro Bowler who missed most of the Spring work with his teammates. “I just like that he loves football,” Donatell said. “He’s always into it and he brings great energy. He really processes fast and he a figure things out after the snap. That’s why he’s been a good player, good competitor and good teammate. It’s really good to have him here. Him missing time didn’t hurt much, he’s a quick study. He’s right on top of things.”
The position on the roster that’s most up for grabs is likely punt returner. Watching special teams practice takes a special kind of football fan/reporter, but nobody has stood out as the clear cut favorite to win the punt return job. The competition for that gig will certainly carry over into the Hall of Fame Game, and likely beyond that.
“If they punt nine times, we’re going to have nine different punt returners, I guarantee it (laughing). I guarantee it I put a different guy out every time.”
Saturday we saw Mike Shanahan at Broncos practice for the first time since he coached the team in 2008. While Fangio said he and Shanny are just getting to know each other, I figured Scangarello and he likely knew each other a bit with the O.C. having worked with Kyle Shanahan 3 of the last four years. I turned out to be right when I asked “Scang” what his relationship with the elder Shanny was like.
You can read his answer here or watch and listen to it in the tweet below.
“Very, very fortunate,” Scangarello said Long story short, but before I watched Kyle's [offense], I always emulated back to the early 2000s, late 90s—kind of when I first got going— it was always about the Broncos’ system. [Pro Football Hall of Fame RB] Terrell Davis, all the way back, the wide-zone system—I always admired it from afar. I got in the building with Kyle,then met Mike, and then he was around a lot. In Atlanta, I got to meet him a little bit. In San Francisco, I got to know him very, very well. I’d even invite him into my meetings and stuff. I've gotten a wealth of knowledge. I have dinner with him and pick his brain. He's been very good. He's been a very good mentor in some ways. I think he is one of the better minds that have been in the game, and it has been fun having that relationship.”