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Notebook: Maintaining Focus

Posted Dec 12, 2011

The Broncos are continuing to take it one day at a time; The players have formed close bonds; Floyd Little get honored.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Sitting at 8-5 and first place in the AFC West, the Denver Broncos are in contention for a postseason berth.

Yet, with three games still to play, the team is keeping the same mentality it's had since Day 1 and not getting overconfident.

"We talk about it a lot. They understand it," Head Coach John Fox said. "Just stay focused. Don't let it get too big on the outside. Every time you win, the next game is the bigger game. It just comes with the territory. We just kind of stay in the present and make sure we're staying focused on our preparation. They've done a good job so far. I don't expect that to change."

The next game for the Broncos comes at the hands of the 10-3 New England Patriots at Sports Authority Field at Mile High Sunday. The Patriots bring veteran quarterback and three-time Super Bowl champ Tom Brady to Denver, and just like they did last week and the previous weeks, the Broncos are going to make sure to put all their energy into stopping New England rather than looking ahead.

"It's like reading a book; you're getting closer to the end," Fox said. "There are still three games left, a very big game this week against the New England Patriots. It's a one game at a time mentality, and at the end, if you're fortunate enough to win your share and get into the tournament, then you attack that season."

The Broncos are staying in the present by focusing on their mistakes rather than their successes. Instead of patting themselves on the back for all their great plays, the players are dissecting their errors in order to get better every day.

"Looking at (last) game, we did some bad things," linebacker Wesley Woodyard said. "That's the mentality we have. We don't even remember the good plays. We remember the bad plays and the plays that we have to do to continue to be successful in high competition."


While it's undeniable there is something different about this Broncos team on the field, that persona is also playing out inside the locker room.

Players are loose and comfortable with each other.

"I think somewhere it hit us that football is important, and in order for us to win and be successful, we have to start in the locker room and build those relationships," Woodyard said. "Sometimes you have to tear down walls that are there. If you usually don't speak to this guy, sometimes if you want to win and it comes to the situations where you are going to have to depend on that guy, you have to be able to depend on him throughout the week."

Like many facets of every day life, in some locker rooms, cliques develop and players stick to a certain group. But that's not the case with these Broncos, as Woodyard said he feels as comfortable hanging out with an offensive linemen as with a fellow linebacker.

"When I first got here in the league, people used to ask me what was the difference in the locker room, and I'd just be like, 'Really guys don't really hang out besides certain position players and maybe a couple other guys,'" Woodyard said. "I can definitely say I could go over to somebody's house on the offense, even guys on the defense, and just hang out. That's the kind of relationship I had in college, and that's the kind of relationship we have this year."

Indeed, in a message coaches around the country -- from Pee-Wee football or the NFL -- preach, the players are simply having fun playing a game they love.

"It almost feels like we're playing high school football again," Matt Prater said on NFL Network. "We're all about team. You're going to work with your best friends. It doesn't even feel like we're going to work anymore. We're just going to hang out with our buddies and play a game we love to play."


Former Broncos player and Pro Football Hall of Famer Floyd Little was recently named the 2011 recipient of the Walter Camp Football Foundation "Distinguished American" Award.

Little was the first Bronco to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards in a season and became a three-time Pro Bowler. His number 44 was retired both by the Broncos and Syracuse, his alma mater.

Little joins past winners such as Chuck Bednarik, Len Dawson, Dick Vermeil, Harold "Red" Grange and George Halas.

"Floyd's values and commitment to helping others are what makes him a Hall-of-Fame person," Foundation president John Marks said.