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What Will Change? 'Nothing At All'

Posted Nov 4, 2013

Independent analyst Andrew Mason delves into how the locker room believes the team will move forward with Head Coach John Fox temporarily sidelined.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In other locker rooms, with other sets of players, led by other coaches, perhaps a team would not be prepared to weather the loss of its head coach. But these Broncos, by virtue of their experience, leadership and performance to date, are as well-equipped as possible to cope with the absence of head coach John Fox for the next several weeks.

Having an experienced hand like Jack Del Rio's at the helm on an interim basis doesn't hurt, either. Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton knows this better than any other Bronco, having played for Del Rio in Jacksonville, and he doesn't expect anything to change.

"Nothing at all. Nothing at all," said Knighton. "(Del Rio) is going to accept the role. He's not going to step in and try to replace (Fox). He's going to keep the same message going, and it will be echoed through the coaching staff and the leaders on the team."

Added cornerback Chris Harris Jr.: "I don't really expect anything different. As a team, players are what make the team. We know it's always good to have your coach and motivator and your leader, but it's a player's league and as long as we go out there and handle our business like a regular week, we should be fine."

There will be some slight adjustments. Although Del Rio will remain the Broncos' defensive coordinator, the addition of "interim head coach" to his title creates further responsibilities -- but not necessarily extra work.

"I don’t know that you need to add hours -- just reorganize how they’re being spent and make sure that I’m efficient with my time," said Del Rio, who coached the Jaguars from 2003 through November 2011. "Fortunately, I’ve been blessed with a very solid work ethic and understanding of how to manage the time, so I’ll put it together and we’ll work at it collectively.”

Del Rio believes the single biggest adjustment might involve how he coaches during the game. As the overseer of the entire team, he can no longer simply turn his back to the field to focus on the defense while the offense goes about its work.

"(Defensive Backs Coach) Cory (Undlin) and (the other defensive coaches), they do a great job of being able to relate what's going out there on the field," said Harris. "Coach Jack, he really just has to focus on the team really instead of bringing whatever happened to the sideline. But Coach Fox, I mean, even though it's a game, Coach Fox always comes to the sideline with the D and kind of scans what's going on. So, I'm pretty sure he'll have time to."

The onus will not only be on the defensive coaches. Some players will also have to step forward, starting with leaders like quarterback Peyton Manning and linebacker Wesley Woodyard.

Manning's coach-on-the-field tendencies are well-documented, but Woodyard's leadership has flown a bit under the radar, even though this is his fifth year as a team captain. Inside the locker room, the Broncos know better, and Knighton even considers Woodyard a defensive version of Manning.

"That's exactly what he is," said Knighton.

But Woodyard isn't the only one. Knighton cited safety Rahim Moore as another "quarterback of the defense," and saw others step forward -- even during a relatively quiet practice Monday as the Broncos returned from their bye week. With Del Rio now watching over the entire team as well as the defense, players now know they must fill any void that the shifting creates.

"You can feel it today in practice. (Kevin) Vickerson and (Woodyard), there's a little bit more urgency now with Jack having to play both sides," said Knighton. "They've been leaders all year, so it's nothing new.

"The ending to last year was still in our mind. So it's like there's an urgency right now to not let that happen, and don't come up short at the end of the season."

And even without Fox around to reinforce the message, that has not changed.

"We’re committed and we’re on this mission and we’ll carry on," Del Rio said. "That’s what Coach Fox would want."