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Five Thoughts: Chippiness, Montee Ball's progress highlight eventful day

Posted Aug 20, 2014

Montee Ball's return to team work heated emotions at the end of practice with the Texans marked an eventful day at Dove Valley.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- To the surprise of few, the mood turned testy at the end of practice. A football was flung amid a forest of navy blue helmets, words were exchanged, and players wandered from the sidelines to see what the ruckus was about.

No punches were thrown. It was a tempest that sputtered and caused no damage. But it was testament to the heated emotions that accompanied the second day of joint practices between the Broncos and Houston Texans.

"Tensions are kind of getting a little rowdy," said cornerback Bradley Roby. That’s expected, though, when you’ve got that much testosterone going out there everyday."

Added cornerback Aqib Talib: "There's about 200 guys out here. It's hard to avoid it."

Fellow cornerback Chris Harris Jr. thought the origin of the disagreement was when Texans safety D.J. Swearinger intercepted Peyton Manning moments earlier, ending the Broncos' offense work in the two-minute drill period. Swearinger stepped in front of an intended pass from Manning to Julius Thomas, and the boisterous celebration that followed was more typical of a regular-season game than a preseason practice.

"I think that 36 (Swearinger) was just talking," said Harris. "He'd just got a pick of Peyton, so he was just talking. His swag just went to another level."

Between Swearinger's interception and the near-eruption between the teams, the Texans offense drove into Broncos territory. After the incident, a 43-yard Randy Bullock field goal allowed the Texans to win their two-minute drill period.

"They got all hyped up over (it)," said Harris. "I mean, Peyton threw one little pick. But we'll see what happens on Saturday."

In the meantime, Wednesday was eventful.

1. Although running back Montee Ball was not on the field when emotions boiled, his presence during red-zone periods of a full-pad practice was a crucial step toward reaching his target of full readiness by the Week 1 game against Indianapolis.

Ball is "slowly, slowly" getting his weight back up after losing five to six pounds following his appendectomy Aug. 3, but said that he felt no lingering pain from his surgery.

"It’s just now we’re going to see how it is to take contact. We’re going to see how it is. I’m sure we’re going to do some things with that. But other than that, just running, sprinting and all that, I feel no pain, so I think I’ll be good to go. It’s time to go."

2. As intense as Wednesday's full-pad work was, Harris insisted that it doesn't match up to the work of the preseason, let alone the regular-season.

"It's not better than a preseason game, because that's real-life situation and game-like (situation)," Harris said. "You never know how guys -- guys come out here and practice amazing, and then you get to the game, and they can look totally different. But these practices, it's a relaxed game, really. That's pretty much how it is."

But for Harris, this is all the work he will receive in the preseason. He's being brought back incrementally, with a period of practice added to his workload this week. It's now four -- but he wants more.

"I’m a competitor, so (the) coaches, they have to tell me I can’t go, and they try to hide my helmet from me," Harris said.

3. Lerentee McCray was the Broncos' star of the one-on-one pass rush drills between their defensive linemen and Houston's offensive linemen. What was most impressive Wednesday was his balance and body control against Houston tackle Tyson Clabo, a former Bronco.

Clabo was able to knock McCray off balance and get him low, but the second-year linebacker maintained his balance and kept going, working underneath Clabo to get to the tackling dummy. Plays like this are why McCray has fortified his place at strong-side linebacker behind Von Miller.

4. The excused absence of Wes Welker and the continued recovery of Emmanuel Sanders from a quadriceps injury provides plenty of chances for Cody Latimer with the first and second units, and he responded with a leaping, one-handed catch of a Brock Osweiler pass in the back of the end zone.

One official thought that Latimer was in-bounds, one thought he was out. But that doesn't take anything away from one of the most spectacular catches at Dove Valley in recent memory. It was the signature play of a day that saw the offense move the football with more efficiency and consistency than a day earlier, when the performance drew Manning's ire.

"I'm sure a lot of our guys noticed that he wasn’t happy on the field," said offensive coordiantor Adam Gase. "I spoke my mind in the meetings. I’m not really going to do it out here for everybody to watch, but I said my piece. We made sure that we came out here and had a better day."

5. The throw to Latimer was one of Osweiler's better passes of the summer, and was reminiscent of a similar pass during organized team activities two months ago. Osweiler has learned what kind of passes the rookie wide receiver can grab, and can place the throw to where no one else has a chance at grabbing the football.

But the day wasn't all smiles and sunshine for the backup quarterback. In the same period as the pass to Latimer, he was intercepted by Houston cornerback Elbert Mack, who got pressure and intercepted Osweiler in the backfield. It was in the midst of a pressure-packed period for the quarterbacks; shortly after the interception, Houston defensive end Keith Browner tipped a Zac Dysert pass at the line of scrimmage. The ball deflected to Broncos offensive lineman Michael Schofield, who caught it and lurched upfield.

"When your twos and threes end up going when teams are still pressuring that's where you're kind of lacking picking up pressures," Gase said. "We spend so much time with our ones as far as picking up pressures, identifying blitzes and plays where Peyton Manning can make some changes to where our twos and threes are really more of a scout team a lot of the time they are learning things on the fly. It's a rep thing and the more reps they can get, the better chances they have of picking those things up."

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