ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —Competition at training camp consistently has a high level of intensity, but it's hard to get a game-style atmosphere playing against your teammates day-in and day-out.
The Broncos were able to do just that, beginning the first of three joint practices with the Houston Texans at the Dove Valley practice facility Tuesday, just days before they face off in Saturday's preseason game.
Neither team wore pads in today's first practice for post-game recovery time, but the matchup helped ratchet up the intensity closer to game level while they worked on some of the more technical aspects, like footwork and positioning, before getting more physical starting tomorrow.
The players welcome the change, especially in being able to take on a new challenge.
"Normally you're trying to take care of your own guys, but when you have another team across from you, you can just rev it up a bit," Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall said.
There's no animosity between the two teams – although the leash is loosened a bit for players to push themselves even further – rather, they hold each other in high regard.
"It's almost like having three days of playing a game," defensive end DeMarcus Ware said. "You want to step it up a little bit because you're going against an opposing team and against another opponent, so you will be a little more aggressive since it's not once of your teammates."
"Yeah I think we did a pretty good job, both teams, of respecting each other but still having an intense practice and getting after it," Broncos tight end Julius Thomas added.
Thomas noted that going up against players like Texans defensive end J.J. Watt and outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney can help him see a new perspective on how his technique is, but the talent he's beenfacing in practice against DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller has been "pretty much all the gauge I need to see how I've been doing."
One of the main benefits is the ability to practice against different schemes and different personnel on either side of the ball. "They give you looks at 3-4 on certain downs and then looks for four down and have all the different blitzes and coverages as well," Peyton Manning said.
Ultimately, the joint practice just makes for an enjoyable vibe as they play new opponents and are able to take the intensity a notch higher.
"It was fun," Denver cornerback Bradley Roby said. "Just to have some new guys out here, new receivers to learn, new offense to go against. So you know, it was exciting."
But today was just the beginning. Tomorrow the two teams will meet again, this time wearing pads and ready for heavy contact.
"You can feel the intensity kind of pick up towards the end," Roby said. "So tomorrow is going to be a lot of juice going around."