DENVER -- A distinct buzz filled the room in the United Club Level at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Friday afternoon as Broncos players were introduced, one after the next, over the speaker system to an excited congregation of fans at the 2nd annual Kickoff Luncheon.
And considering that the next time the Broncos hear their names called over the speakers will be at Saturday night’s game against the Rams, there was plenty of reason for the excitement.
It’s officially football season again in Denver, with the Kickoff Luncheon – a fundraiser benefiting numerous Denver Broncos charities – marking a symbolic beginning merely hours before the Broncos play their first home game of the preseason.
The luncheon, which was attended by the entire Broncos roster and coaching staff, gave fans in attendance a chance to eat lunch and interact with their favorite players.
And for the players it was a satisfying opportunity to get to know some of the passionate following that cheers them on each Sunday during the season.
“I thought it was awesome. It’s always so great to be able to meet fans,” defensive tackle
Mitch Unrein said. “It’s great to hear about their experiences when they’re out there cheering us on every Sunday. I really enjoyed speaking with everyone today.”
Fans also heard from Head Coach John Fox, Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase, Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio and Special Teams Coordinator Jeff Rodgers, who addressed the luncheon on a podium and gave their thoughts on the team just 13 days before the Broncos kick off the 2013 NFL regular season against the Ravens.
Silent auctions, autograph opportunities with Broncos alumni Billy Thompson, Karl Mecklenburg and Simon Fletcher and appearances by the Broncos Cheerleaders were part of the event’s festivities.
And at an event designed for benefiting local charities as part of the Broncos’ Be A Champion in the Community campaign, Fox celebrated the Broncos’ family environment that he said is a part of the organization’s culture and a reflection of its owner, Pat Bowlen.
“In any successful organization, where it starts is at the top,” Fox said. “I think it is a family here and you feel that.”
“Pat Bowlen, his record speaks for itself – what he’s done for the city of Denver, as well as the NFL and the Denver Broncos organization,” he added. “It starts there.”
On the football side of things, Fox addressed the ups and downs that the Broncos have experienced over the offseason and in training camp.
“I think really in life you’re going to deal with two things, prosperity or adversity. Quite frankly, I think the positive outweighs the negative that we’ve seen,” Fox said. “You’re always dealing with one or the other in this league. We’ve had our fair share and we’ll have our fair share moving forward. It’s about how you deal with those and our guys have done a terrific job.”
Gase, who enters his first season as offensive coordinator, said that the familiarity between the players and the offensive coaching staff have made for a smooth transition.
“We’ve had good communication. Our offensive staff has been here for the last three years for the most part,” he said. “Adding (Quarterbacks Coach) Greg Knapp and (Offensive Assistant) Jim Bob Cooter to our staff has been huge. A couple of us have been here for almost five years now.”
Del Rio noted that the schematic fundamentals that his players have studied and practiced during the offseason and training camp will be applied in helping the defense evolve as the season goes on.
“What we’ve been doing in camp is basically installing and learning a system, and learning the principals within that system,” Del Rio said. “And then we can mix and match as we get into the season and it’s not brand new for guys.”
“We’re not looking to start over on Tuesday night and create a new defense,” he added. “We want to look things that we’ve done throughout the course of the offseason and training camp, and put guys in position to make plays.”
Del Rio also noted that the defense will adjust its player personnel for certain situations so that the most capable players are on the field.
“We create competition. We’re going to play the best 11 guys in different situations,” Del Rio said. “And we’re going to find things that guys can do and utilize their talents.”
Rodgers expressed his excitement about returning his core cast of kicker
Matt Prater, punter Britton Colquitt, kick returner Trindon Holliday and long snapper Aaron Brewer.
“There’s plenty of teams around the league that go through revolving doors at those positions and having that continuity certainly is a positive,” he said.
And for Unrein, who grew up as a Broncos fan in Colorado, it was easy to empathize with the excitement of the fans in the room.
“This is the season that probably every Coloradan looks forward to,” Unrein said. “Summer probably feels like it’s taking too long without football going on. Where else can you say that? I know the fans are really excited and we’re excited, too. Hopefully we’ll have a good showing for them tomorrow afternoon.”