ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When Team President Joe Ellis received the Broncos' 2013 schedule, he immediately called Owner and CEO Pat Bowlen.
"In his 30 years of ownership, I sensed in his voice that this was the most excited he was about an opening game," Ellis said.
The Broncos, for the first time in franchise history, will take part in the NFL's annual Kickoff Game, scheduled for the Thursday prior to the first Sunday of the season.
The game has been held since 2002, and since 2004, the defending Super Bowl champion has earned the right to host the event. But due a scheduling conflict with the Baltimore Orioles, the Ravens will head to Denver for the contest.
"This is really a great tribute to our fans and our city and our passion for pro football and the Denver Broncos that we get to be the opening game of the 2013 regular season in front of -- I think it's somewhere north of 25 million people will be watching us," Ellis said. "So hopefully we'll put on a good show that night."
Even though the pregame celebrations put on by the NFL will "rightfully" take place in Baltimore, Ellis said the team has held meetings to determine plans to commemorate the 2013 season opener in Denver.
"We’re going to do our own thing here to celebrate the start, as we should, and reward our fans with the opportunity to get excited about the start of the year," he said.
As far as the rest of the schedule, Ellis said the main thing that sticks out is the number of primetime games. For the second consecutive season, the Broncos are scheduled to play in five primetime games -- the second-most in franchise history.
In addition to the Kickoff Game, the club hosts Oakland on Monday Night Football in Week 3, visits Indianapolis on Sunday Night Football in Week 7, travels to New England on Sunday Night Football in Week 12 and plays San Diego on Thursday Night Football in Week 15 in Denver.
"Five primetime games — that’s something that we wouldn’t have had a few years ago, so we’ve elevated our status as a team, and that’s a testimony to the hard work (Executive Vice President of Football Operations) John Elway, (Head Coach) John Fox and our coaching staff and most importantly, the players," he said. "We’re in a good place as a team right now.”
Another standout game? When the Washington Redskins head to Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Week 8, just before the team's bye week.
"I think our game against Washington will be very, very compelling because the Redskins are going to have a good team and (Redskins Head Coach) Mike Shanahan is coming back here," Ellis said. "That’ll be fun for everybody."
All-in-all, the team president said he wasn't too surprised by the schedule, particularly which games were pegged for primetime.
He's excited that fans have such high expectations for the year, but he cautioned that there is still plenty of work to be done.
"I think the expectations of the fans are that the bar has been set a little bit higher this year — as it should be, and that’s a good thing for us," Ellis said. "We had a great run last year, winning 11 in a row to lead the regular season, and then we just missed an opportunity -- we let one go. And the goal is to try and get back to have that opportunity again and have greater success.”