ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Head Coach Sean Payton sees his team's desire to change outside perception.
"These guys, they want to improve and want to be seen in a different way," Payton said Wednesday. "The taste of last year, that's over with, it's a tough division, a tough league."
Despite high expectations last offseason, Denver posted a 5-12 record and never reached the heights they once hoped to meet. As the Broncos begin another season, Payton can sense the motivation to change that narrative.
All-Pro safety Justin Simmons is among the players who identify with Payton's assessment — and as Simmons enters his eighth season in the league, he's focused on a singular task.
"The message hits," Simmons said. "And I just want to win."
After making progress through OTAs, the Broncos are back to work at training camp. Denver has done plenty to bring in talent through free agency and the draft, and Payton has been impressed with the culture and mentality.
"I think part of the procurement of players is finding those guys that it matters a lot to," Payton said. "And that becomes a little bit contagious, and then you have something."
Payton noted that players arrived for training camp in great shape, a testament to their commitment this offseason and how much winning means to them. That includes recent signees and players returning from injury such as third-year running back Javonte Williams, who took to the field Wednesday after recovering from a knee injury that ended his 2022 season. Payton said before the end of the offseason program the team could easily lose its progress over the summer, but the group seemed to maintain its standing as camp began.
"I feel pretty good [about the team]," Payton said. "You could see it with their weights and in the workouts we did yesterday – I think they're in good shape. Obviously, we've got a whole month-and-a-half here ahead of us, but overall it was good."
That commitment is just the first step, and Simmons said Payton's first message to the team centered around finding success.
"I think the number one thing is just to win and find ways to win," Simmons said. "For me, personally, the number one word I associate with Coach [Payton] is just education. The way he teaches and the way he is so knowledgeable in explaining situations is something I feel like is really unique."
Last season, Simmons took a long-term scope in expressing his optimism, but he has shifted to more of a day-by-day approach in pursuing his lofty goals for himself and the team.
"The day-to-day approach, I think for me has to be a little more amped up," Simmons said. "You can't think too much into the future, you can't look too much into the past — it has to be a day-by-day approach. That's just how I'm approaching it this year, and I still believe in the guys that we have on this team."
"Whether you did poorly or won, it's a new year, fresh slate. All anyone cares about is 2023, this year."
On offense, wide receiver Courtland Sutton underscored the Broncos' common goals, the eagerness to improve and the need to put the past behind them.
"All we can control is moving forward now," Sutton said. "I think that the guys that have been a part of the past seasons understand that sense of urgency that we have to have moving forward."
"... Everybody's coming to work. Everybody understands what the top priority is. It's good to be able to be back at work and be able to get the taste out of my mouth moving forward."