ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Minicamp ended Thursday, but the only aspect to distinguish it from other organized team activities was the fact that it was mandatory. Other organized team activity sessions are voluntary, but have had the same full participation, which can be expected for the OTA days that remain next week.
This is a product of the times. Player revenues are tied to overall revenues. They have grown commensurate with the expansion of the NFL's reach over the decades.
“Back when I first came in the league (in 1989), guys had offseason jobs. They worked at banks and real estate companies and all those things," said Head Coach John Fox.
In 1977, the Broncos' first Super Bowl season, training camp began on July 15 -- two months and three days before the regular-season opener. Thirteen years later -- Fox's second in the league -- camp began on July 16, 55 days before the regular-season opener, and 20 days before beginning their preseason against the Seattle Seahawks in Tokyo.
In those days, the extra time was needed to get players in optimal shape. That's no longer a concern, with organized offseason work covering two months, and the lack of other commitments allowing for plenty of work on their own.
"The game has progressed, they’re getting paid a lot more. They don’t need second jobs. So they can put everything into this profession," said Fox.
His team put its all into this week, and some of the more notable performances -- in alphabetical order -- included:
1. Safety Quinton Carter: After two years of knee problems, what you want to see are sharp changes of direction and acceleration. He showed that this week. Considering how well he played on the first team in his rookie season, he could give the Broncos a potentially above-average starter as a backup, and with Duke Ihenacho and David Bruton possessing starting experience, the Broncos could have some of the best safety depth in the league.
2. Quarterback Zac Dysert: As the third-teamer, his repetitions are scarcer than those for Manning and Brock Osweiler, but he shows nice touch on his passes. He and Osweiler have different sets of strengths; Osweiler's mobility and deep passes stood out this week. Their work merits close observation in training camp.
3. Wide receiver Cody Latimer: There was no evidence of the foot injury that hindered Latimer leading up to the draft. He looked big, fast, and more precise on his cuts than you'd often expect from someone so young. He made plays at all ranges, adjusted well to a variety of passes from Manning and Osweiler -- who throw different types of balls, obviously -- and made an impression. Another receiver who quietly found himself catching plenty of passes, particularly short ones, was Jordan Norwood, an ex-Cleveland Brown who made his NFL debut five years ago. The competition is stiff; Norwood, Isaiah Burse and Bennie Fowler kept landing in my notebook this week. Wide receiver looks to be a strong position from top to bottom.
4. Linebacker Lerentee McCray: Working on the strong side, the second-year veteran looked more confident in coverage and decisive against the run. He's been one of the beneficiaries of the playing time created by Von Miller's ongoing rehabilitation.
5. Tight end Gerell Robinson: Seeing him break open downfield when covered by linebackers offers a reminder of his background as a wide receiver, which he played through last season's training camp. He and Osweiler have kept their timing from their days together at Arizona State. He's still a work in progress at tight end, but he can create mismatches.
6. Defensive end Quanterus Smith: After dealing with the lingering effects of a torn anterior cruciate ligament last summer, Smith looks like the warp-speed edge rusher who torched Alabama in 2012, beating Cyrus Kouandijo for two sacks and D.J. Fluker for one. We know that Smith can make plays wide around the edge; what I liked most was his burst to the inside, and his improved use of his hands, showing that he's listening to the tutelage of DeMarcus Ware.
7. Cornerback Kayvon Webster: The presence of Aqib Talib and first-round pick Bradley Roby puts pressure on the 2013 third-round pick, but he has responded with gradual improvement over the last three weeks, and an interception of Peyton Manning during Tuesday's practice. Webster looks more confident and aggressive than he did last year. The expected return of Chris Harris Jr. later this summer means that if Webster keeps playing well and all hands are healthy, the Broncos could have the luxury of easing Roby into extensive work if he can't work past the three top veterans.