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O'Neal on the Offensive

Posted Nov 13, 2003

oneal_031113.jpg

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Broncos have a new wide receiver -- and they didn't even have to sign another player to the active roster to get one.

Following Thursday's practice, Head Coach Mike Shanahan announced that Deltha O\'Neal has shifted sides of the line of scrimmage, and is now working out with the Broncos at wide receiver after three-plus years as a cornerback.

"We've moved him over," Shanahan said. "We've looked at him this week."

The other receivers first got an inkling of the switch when they went into a position meeting earlier this week.

"I didn't even know he was in the (wide receiver) meeting," Rod Smith said. "The guys were like, ‘Deltha is in our meeting.' I said, ‘What is he doing?'"

O'Neal has offensive experience, but it was primarily in high school, and it was not at wideout. At Milpitas (Calif.) High School, he set the school's career record in rushing yards with 2,312. During his senior season of 1994, he scored 15 touchdowns on offense -- but only one came on a reception.

"I just remember out in California when I lived out there (as offensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers from 1992-94), he was a great running back and he caught the ball extremely well," Shanahan said. "I don't know if he's played wide receiver or not, but he's pretty natural, doing the one-on-one and those types of things out there."

In his college days at the University of California-Berkeley, he caught two touchdown passes. In spite of the lack of pass-catching experience, his play at receiver impressed Shanahan.

"He really did a good job," Shanahan said. "I think he's got a lot of talent and he's got natural hands, and I think everybody knows what type of running ability he has. We're taking a look at him and hopefully he enjoys it, steps up and will make some plays for us."

When asked how long it would take someone to pick up the nuances of the receiver position, Shanahan smiled.

"Four days," he said.

If O'Neal wants assistance in the transition, Smith is willing to provide it.

"My thing is: If I can help him, I'm going to try and help him. He's a member of our football team and you always want guys to take advantage of their opportunities whenever they have them," Smith said. "Even when he was on the defensive side of the ball I tried to help him out. I know it is probably unfortunate for him to be moved like that because I know it was a shocking move to me, but at the same time we still have to go out and play football."

But the change to wideout doesn't mean that O'Neal's career as a cornerback is necessarily over.

"I can't say he's finished because he's played here for a number of years, and we know what type of year he had when he made the Pro Bowl (in 2001)," Shanahan said. "I just thought it was something that was intriguing to me to see his receiving skills and see what he can do with the ball in his hands -- to take a look at him over at that position, since we're kind of thin at that position right now."

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