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Joint practices a refreshing learning experience for Broncos

Posted Aug 21, 2014

The Broncos wrapped up three days of practices with the Texans in a learning experience in a highly competitive atmosphere.

Well after the Broncos and Texans ended their final joint practice, a few Denver players met at the water tent next to the practice fields to dump Gatorade coolers of ice water onto one another, joining the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge spreading across the country.

The two teams had just wrapped up three practices together that got heated at times, both emotionally and in temperature, with the sun beating down on the field each day. Perhaps there was no better way for everyone to cool down than to be doused by a wave of freezing water.

The small dust-ups were little more than just competition pushing emotions a bit, as they still had respect for one another once the practices were over.

"It’s been refreshing to go against other guys and other professionals, rather than going against our guys all the time," defensive tackle Marvin Austin said. "It’s a change of pace, which I think is good. Get to see different looks, get to see a whole different offense. For our defense, it just helps us get better and grow, just seeing different things."

Rookie wide receiver Isaiah Burse noted that playing against the same teammates for so long means getting familiar with how they play and getting to know what moves work on them. For him and everyone else, practicing against the Texans presented them with the opportunity to face different challenges. "It's a perfect time to go out there and test your moves on them and see how they react to a double-move or a quick slant or something."

The three practices also gave the players a chance to combat exhaustion after weeks on end practicing against the same guys.

"It was one of those things where at the beginning of camp this is kind of when bodies are starting to get tired," tight end Jacob Tamme said. "Practices are tough, so it actually was pretty refreshing to get some new faces out here and naturally something happens to you when you get another team across the line from you."

"I think it's always good to see a different scheme and a different system," Head Coach John Fox said Thursday. "This game is all about matchups and the matchups are different and their personnel is different. I think it was all beneficial as far as looks that we get to see without playing the game."

The bigger matchups featured plenty of exciting battles on offense and defense, led by a matchup between Pro Bowler Ryan Clady and No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney.

As Austin said, "It's always good to know your opponent in any kind of battle," but that works they other way, too, as Tamme noted: "We got to see what they do on defense a little, they got to see what we do on offense, and obviously our defense the same thing with their offense, but all four sides of that equation will have something up that wasn’t shown during practice, I’m sure."

Still, they still had the ability to play a different style of defense from what they usually face, playing against the Texans' 3-4 defense, and players were able to familiarize themselves with their opponents' tendencies and to just get accustomed to their opponents in general.

Beyond bringing in new competition, the joint practices served to reconnect players who had histories with each other, like former Wisconsin Badgers Montee Ball and J.J. Watt.

"It's fun," Burse said of the practices together. "And not just because it’s refreshing to go against another team, but you get to see guys you went through the draft with, some guys you trained with. And some guys you lost in the draft and you’re like 'Oh, you landed here? You ended up here?', so it’s good to see these guys’ faces and seeing that worked out for them."

Down the line, players and coaches were hopeful for more joint practices in future years. Coach Fox said they'd evaluate, but he added "My feeling right now is yes."