ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Considering that
He'd never played center in the NFL before. He'd never started at center during his four seasons at the University of North Dakota; all of his starts there came at right guard and left tackle. It has been nine years since he played center, and even that experience during his junior season at North Dakota was brief.
"I took three snaps in a game," he said. "It was all right."
"We've all talked about doing it," he added. "It's something I need to work on. Last year I was probably the emergency center. I didn't do it much last year, so if we would have come down to it, it might have been interesting. We've got to get it figured out."
The only experienced options at center are
1. Kuper's competition won't begin until he's actually able to get onto the field for any team, 9-on-7 or 1-on-1 snaps in practice beyond individual drills and the walk-through period. That didn't happen Tuesday.
"I'm not going to put a timeframe on it," he said.
"Today I was really just kind of feeling it out. I'm not in great football shape quite yet. We're being careful with it."
Kuper admitted that "time is probably what's going to heal it," but time is not a luxury he possesses in earnest. By putting on full pads for Tuesday's practice, he lost his eligibility for the physically-unable-to-perform list, for which a player is eligible only if he does not practice in training camp or the regular season. Thus, if he stays with the Broncos into the regular season, he must be one of the 53 players on the roster. The Broncos already faced tough decisions at cornerback, wide receiver and safety, among other positions. Now Kuper must show his readiness in the next three weeks.
"I just have to earn a spot on the roster," he said. "The main thing is that I have to get healthy enough to be able to compete for that spot."
2. Left tackle
"It's kind of a progression. We have a plan," said Clady. "It's weird not practicing every rep with the team. It's definitely humbling."
The good news for Clady is the condition of his surgically repaired shoulder: he said it's sore after practice, but not a source of pain. Just as much of an issue is being in football condition; his shoulder surgery prevented full workouts throughout the offseason.
"I'm getting there. I'm not 100 percent. The (StairMaster is) a little tricky even when you are in shape," he said.
Still, when he bursts open for a touchdown pass in red-zone work that sees him streak to the end zone and make the catch in perfect stride -- and then follows that later in practice with a 40-yard touchdown grab up the seam -- it's hard not to envision the possibilities for Welker in his new offense. It's also apparent that cornerback
And Welker might be better -- and more of a threat all over the field, as he continues to catch passes at every range. Don't be surprised if Welker ends up with slightly fewer receptions than his typical 110-120-catch output, but more yards per catch than the 11.2 he's averaged for his career.
That wasn't all, as one day after being stiff-armed by running back
5. The other standout of the goal-line period was running back