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Justin Simmons, Will Parks join star-studded secondary

Posted May 31, 2016

Rookie safeties Justin Simmons and Will Parks are ready to learn from the NFL's top secondary.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When rookie safety Will Parks arrived at UCHealth Training Center, it didn’t take long for him to figure out the dynamic of the secondary:

The “No Fly Zone” is among the best in the league, and they’ll let you know it, too.

“They're some dogs out there on the field,” Parks said. “They talk a lot, but they about their business. And that’s kind of what I’m about. Being in that group and that atmosphere, you can’t do nothing but get some motivation from it. So me and [rookie safety] Justin [Simmons] and all of us, we go behind them and we go out there and do the same thing.”

Simmons, a third-round pick out of Boston College, and Parks, a sixth-round pick out of Arizona, couldn’t pick a better group from which to learn. The Broncos led the NFL in passing defense in 2015 and, according to cornerback Aqib Talib, they “don’t want to be no Super Bowl bust.”

When the position group consists of names like Talib, Chris Harris Jr., Darian Stewart and T.J. Ward, there’s a clear standard of what’s acceptable. Simmons and Parks haven’t taken long to discover that through the early part of the OTAs.

“Everything they do, they do at a high tempo, a high speed,” Simmons said. “If you don’t match that, they get on you pretty quick. For us, right now, it’s just making sure we’re studying our playbooks day in and day out and making sure we just follow their lead.”

Talib said there’s no secret the veterans can pass onto the rookies. Success will come as a result of live repetitions, when Simmons and Parks get “thrown into the fire.”

The rookies’ work ethic has impressed Talib, though. He said he’s noticed some rookies during his nine-year career coast through workouts and “think they're bigger than the program.” 

That hasn’t been the case with this year’s Broncos’ rookie class.

"[They’re] doing better and better in the classroom," Talib said, "and they’re bringing it to the field, so they're workin’, man. This is the time when you get in shape and learn that playbook, so they're definitely doing that.”

Parks and Simmons’ work doesn’t stop when they leave the field. They’re currently rooming together at the rookie hotel and help each other with questions on the playbook. Simmons said while they’re both fighting for spots on the team, they were “chosen for a reason” and they’re prioritizing Denver’s success over their own.

“We’ve got to step it up,” Simmons said. “It’s not college anymore. But it’s been great. Will’s been great, and like I said, there’s a standard that those older guys hold. So every day, we just make sure we push ourselves as well as the other guys that are in the secondary coming in, making sure that we contribute.”

Simmons’ role, though, won’t be that much different than it was at Boston College. He said Tuesday there are only so many coverages a defense can implement and so the carry-over could be extensive. He’ll still need to adjust to different checks, verbiage and offensive formations, but the basic concepts will remain the same.

But the speed of the game won’t be anywhere close.

“As a rookie, things go a lot faster than you expect,” Parks said, “but once you kinda pick up on the things and pick up on the tendencies of the offense, you can just interpret what you’ve got in there in the film room, and put [it] out there on the field.” 

As Simmons and Parks do just that, the pieces of the league’s top-ranked secondary will be there to watch and let the rookies know if they get something wrong. 

They’ll be even louder when they get something right.