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Notebook: Stokley in His Comfort Zone

Posted Sep 3, 2012

Wide receiver Brandon Stokley is finding his niche in Denver, linebacker Steven Johnson beats the odds and running back Ronnie Hillman shares some advice from a veteran.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- As the Broncos begin preparation for their Week 1 matchup with the Steelers, wide receiver Brandon Stokley has both his mind and body right where he wants them to be.

Stokley said he feels great mentally because he is now on the 53-man roster and will be playing football in the city where his family is settled.

“I get to play, get to go home and sleep in my own house and my own bed at night rather than an apartment,” Stokley said. “I get to see my family every day, so for me, that’s big. That helps every day. Just being able to see them and play here in Denver is another great thing.”

Physically, the 14th-year veteran is more than satisfied with his condition.

“I feel great,” Stokley said. “My body feels as good as it’s felt in a long time. I’m looking forward to it. I’m really looking forward to this year.”

It doesn’t hurt that quarterback Peyton Manning is back on the other end of his receptions. Now that it’s his second chance at catching passes from a future Hall-of-Fame quarterback, Stokley’s mentality has changed.

“I definitely feel blessed to be back playing with a quarterback of that magnitude,” Stokley said. “Spending four years with him and then leaving, you kind of start to take for granted what you had there in (Indianapolis). Being a little bit older now, I appreciate everything a little bit more and I know that you never know when you’ll get another opportunity like this.”

Since being signed to the Broncos in the offseason, Stokley has had a first-hand look at the younger wideouts on the team as they work with and learn from Manning. Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker have talked throughout the summer about how beneficial it is to play with No. 18.

Stokley sees the direct effect that the 15th-year quarterback has on the pair of third-year receivers.

“I’ve definitely seen them improve from the beginning to now and I think you’ll continue to see that improvement throughout the season and throughout their years with Peyton,” Stokley said. “That’s the great part about playing with Peyton. He demands accountability and perfection out there and so guys take to that and they seem to work a little harder and pay attention to the details a little bit more.”

JOHNSON ALL SMILES AFTER BEATING ODDS

Linebacker Steven Johnson had a once-in-a-lifetime experience on Friday when he learned that he made the Broncos 53-man roster as an undrafted rookie.

Once he got the news, Johnson called his dad and experienced another first.

“He was excited at first, and then he started crying,” Johnson said. “It was weird. I’ve never seen my dad cry, but he was very excited.”

Soon enough, the whole family had learned the news.

“They’re just very excited with joy that I made my dream come true,” he said.

Johnson, who led the team in the preseason with 15 tackles, had a similar reaction upon hearing the news. After walking on to the Kansas Jayhawks football team four years ago, making an NFL roster is even more of an accomplishment.

“I couldn’t stop smiling,” Johnson said. “I kind of did it again. Being a college free agent is kind of like being a walk-on. I beat those odds twice, and I’m just looking forward to the opportunity.”

QUICK HITS

  • Tony Carter made the 53-man roster as the team’s fourth cornerback. On Monday, Head Coach John Fox explained why.

    "He had a good camp,” Fox said. “He covered well. He was a valuable part of the special-teams units. I think overall he covered one-on-one and that’s an important asset.”

  • Running back Ronnie Hillman switched to No. 21 on Monday once it became available. After practice, he said it was because he wore that number in Pop Warner as a kid.
    Hillman also said he continues to look to running back Willis McGahee for advice.
    "Be patient, and it will come" is a piece of advice that the 10th-year veteran often gives the rookie, according to Hillman.