ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Before Saturday, the Broncos' camp sessions may have seen some minor flare-ups between players, but it wasn't until the ninth day of training camp that emotions finally boiled over with the first real scuffle.
On a run play in a team period, outside linebacker Bradley Chubb and tackle Garett Bolles got tangled up and went to the ground together before being separated. As the two went their separate ways, Bolles went to the locker room to "gather himself," as Head Coach Vic Fangio later said. They both returned to practice and made good with one another, and Fangio said he'd address the situation internally.
"Any fight — we don't need and we don't want," Fangio said.
That said, such emotional releases are not unexpected during camp. Fangio said on Aug. 3 that he had "probably not" been part of an NFL training camp that had not had some kind of fight. To some degree, it's the natural result of camp practices during the summer, especially among those who do their work in the trenches in close quarters.
As preseason games approach, the intensity will remain. The team will take another step forward on Sunday, as players will practice at Empower Field at Mile High. Though fans will not be allowed in the stands, Fangio said he hopes the practice will emulate some game conditions.
"It's going to be a little more game-like in that we'll put the ball down at a certain place and we'll have some kickoffs and have some punts, intermix the punts where they would happen in a game," Fangio said. "It'll be a little more game-like."
After that, Denver will finally face another team, as the Broncos will travel to Minnesota next week for joint practices against the Vikings before their preseason opener. That in itself may help tensions after more than a week of battling teammates on a nearly daily basis.
"It's always good to go against other people," cornerback Ronald Darby said. "You see the same people every day. It's great to get out there and matchup against other people."
With one week until that game, Fangio said he feels the team is in a good spot.
"I feel like we are," Fangio said. "I'd always like more reps, but we're doing what we think is the right thing to do from that standpoint. As it relates to that, I think we're where we can be right now with the reps that we've been doing."
Though it can be hard to estimate what's a sack in training camp with no true live-action hitting, Von Miller clearly made his presence felt with some pass rushes that easily could have brought down a quarterback or two in game action. He could have had a quintessential Miller-esque strip-sack at one point but ran just to the side of the quarterback.
"I thought Von had a good day of practice yesterday, and I think it carried over to today," Fangio said. "I haven't seen the tape yet, but that's what we need from him. We need good, consistent work so he can play a lot of plays and be out there all the time."
On the other side of the defensive formation, Chubb appears to be gaining an increasing workload, Saturday's fracas aside. Fangio wouldn't say exactly when Chubb may be a full participant in practice, but he said Chubb is nearing that level.
"He's getting there," Fangio said. "We just need to build him up to that. Like I said, he had a good eight weeks or so where he really wasn't able to do anything — rehabbing an ankle — as far as conditioning. We have to build him up over these next four weeks to where he can play. …
"You'd always like more, but I think what we're doing with him is the right thing at this point."
NEED FOR SPEED
According to KJ Hamler, there's no one faster than him on this team — "Ain't no question about that," he said Saturday.
That in and of itself may make him a unique weapon for the Broncos' offense, and that's exactly how he views his potential.
"I want to be the playmaker," Hamler said. "I want to be the spark to this offense. It's a lot of talent on the offense. We've got [TE] Noah [Fant], all the guys on the receiving corps, we've got the running backs and stuff like that. You've got [QB] Drew [Lock] and [QB] Teddy [Bridgewater] at quarterback. Every opportunity, I've got to make plays. Some days you might get six balls some days you might get one. So just take every opportunity. I'm blessed that I'm here. I'm blessed I'm a part of the Broncos organization. So, I just try my best just being me every day."
But he may need to be more than just a receiver to help the Broncos' roster as a whole. The team may require his assistance on special teams, and that opportunity is one he's willing to take on.
"I want to do anything that's going to help this team," Hamler said. "[If] they want to put me back there at punt return, kick return, I'm comfortable back there. I'm still learning. A lot of the returners are still learning from [Special Teams Coordinator Tom] McMahon and 'Big Spence.' 'Big Spence' has been a great part of my life. He's teaching me all the ways. He's been doing this now for three or four years, so I'm just on his hip all the time just learning like, 'How would you catch the ball on this? Would you fair catch it?' Things of that nature. [I'm] just learning from those guys and just going out there and just playing with speed."
Check out our photos capturing all the fun and hard work from Day 9 of #BroncosCamp.