ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The loudest and most consistent cheers from the fans gathered on the west hillside at UCHealth Training Center for the Broncos' first training-camp practice of 2019 were for running back Phillip Lindsay. Even his mundane moments elicited applause.
Such is life as one of the most beloved players on the team by fans, some of whom have watched him since high school. Every step he takes draws attention. Thursday, those steps were worthy of the fans' focus because he quivered with energy, finally released after being bottled up for nearly seven months since his Dec. 24 wrist injury.
"Phillip, he’s like one of my kids. I don’t know where he gets all the energy, but he has it 24/7," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "I think in individual [period] I turned around to hand him off on one of the wide zone plays and I barely got to him. All the other guys, they track a little bit different, but he’s a little amped up for getting out here [for] the first time."
His burst was evident on the opening team-period play. He took the handoff from Flacco, waited for the blockers to flow to the left, then made a sharp cutback to the right, galloping into open space for what could have been at least a 10-yard gain under game conditions. Similar cutbacks also led to lengthy pickups during subsequent team periods.
Not every running back possesses this skill -- although the Broncos do have it down the depth chart, as rookie Devontae Jackson and former practice-squad runner Khalfani Muhammad had similar success on cutbacks Thursday.
"Your main thing is being patient and letting your blocks set up, so then a hole can open up as it needs to for you to make a good run," Jackson said. "At the same time, you as a running back have got to help the O-line pick up their blocks; you've got to move the linebackers. It goes hand in hand."
Take an extensive look at the first practice of training camp through photos from the full session, from players warming up to their autograph sessions with fans after their on-field work concluded.
A storyline of OTAs and minicamp was the crisp tempo and intensity of the practices. The pace remained brisk, with only 20 to 30 seconds of downtime between most snaps during the team and seven-on-seven periods Thursday.
"It's the same thing. Vic is a guy that sticks to the script," cornerback De’Vante Bausby said. "If it works, he uses it. If it ain't broke, he ain't gonna fix it."
As for the intensity ... well, it depended which player you asked. Jackson sensed an uptick.
"Definitely, because now everybody's job is literally on the line," Jackson said. "Me being a rookie ... Everything is different, but I'm enjoying it."
First-round pick Noah Fant, however, didn't sense anything beyond what he experienced in May and June.
"OTAs and minicamp, everybody brought it just as [much]," the rookie tight end said. "Everybody's just ready to get to work in training camp."
... The coaches wasted no time giving Fant a baptism by fire Thursday. He saw some in-line work with the No. 1 offense. Fant showed quickness and resilience, including on one play where he started out getting turned around but quickly recovered to deliver a block that helped turn Lindsay loose for a solid run.
The blocking work also put him face-to-face with outside linebacker Von Miller. Understandably, Fant struggled to contain the perennial Pro Bowler.
"I'm going against the best pass rusher in the league -- in my opinion," Fant said. "Watching him every day in practice, I don't know if I can really top what he does. So it's getting me better every day. I wouldn't want that any other way. I'd rather be prepared in practice than go against him in a game and not really know what he's going to do. It's definitely a good thing for me -- and hopefully it's a good thing for him, too. Hopefully I can give him some competition and [we can] try to make each other better."
Of course, every blocker tasked with containing Miller found the going difficult, as Miller frequently disrupted Flacco, forcing some hurried throws.
... The tight-end rotation saw Fant, Troy Fumagalli and Jeff Heuerman all receive plenty of first-team work. The absence of Bug Howard due to an illness also created plenty of opportunities for Austin Fort, who capped his day with a juggling catch down the middle for a 15-yard gain midway through practice.
Fumagalli, who earned notice as a frequent target of Flacco's during OTAs, came up with a nice catch during the seven-on-seven period. He read the coverage perfectly to find a soft spot in the zone for a pass from Flacco.
Jake Butt, who is being brought up to speed as he completes his recovery from a torn ACL, saw work in the seven-on-seven period.
... The second-team defense made life rough on the No. 2 offense -- particularly quarterback Kevin Hogan, who found himself under duress throughout the day. Pressure from DeShawn Williams, who used a swim move to burst past Austin Schlottman and into Hogan's face, led to a Bausby interception, as Hogan's harried throw deflected off linebacker Alexander Johnson into Bausby's grasp.
That unit set the tone during its opening three plays during the first team period. On its second repetition, defensive lineman Zach Kerr used a swim move to burst into the backfield, ensuring Lindsay had no place to run. One play later, pressure off the edge from Jeff Holland led to the first of a series of incompletions caused by front-seven pressure.
... Fellow cornerback Isaac Yiadom joined Bausby in the pick party, intercepting a Flacco attempt to rookie Juwann Winfree. Yiadom broke back on the ball and hauled in the pass on the second-and-10 play.
... Rookie outside linebacker Malik Reed was a defensive star working against the No. 3 offense. On the third play for the third-teamers during the first team period, he burst past the inside shoulder of fellow rookie Nathan Jacobson to get to Drew Lock for what would have been a sack under game conditions. Working the inside is key for Reed as he attempts to show an array of pass-rush moves.
"You've got to be able to change it up. I feel like you can't throw one thing at them each time, and that's something that I've learned from Von [Miller] since I've been here," Reed said. "You have to mix it up. You don't want to show [the offensive lineman] the same move every time, because then he'll sit on it and you're stuck for the whole game."
Multiple pressures followed throughout the balance of the day.
"I try to get off the ball as soon as I can and see what [the offensive lineman] is giving me," Reed said. "Once I see what he's giving me, then I attack."
... With Emmanuel Sanders still working his way back from an Achilles tendon injury, all the receivers moved up a notch. That pushed DaeSean Hamilton into extensive first-team work, and he responded with a slew of solid receptions. But it was wide receiver Brendan Langley who had the catch of the day, hauling in a deep touchdown pass from rookie quarterback Drew Lock.
"It was just a go route, a double go," Langley said. "As soon as we called it in the huddle, I told Drew, 'It's gonna be there,' and he threw it up there and gave me a shot," Langley said. "Hopefully there will be a lot more to come."
... Right guard Ron Leary played roughly half of the team-period snaps with the No. 1 offense before he was given some rest as practice progressed. Don Barclay filled in for him at right guard for the final team periods of the day.
WEATHER REPORT: On a day that saw Denver tie a record high for the date of 99°F, the Broncos practiced in temperatures that rose from 80°F when players walked onto the field to 91°F when they returned to the locker room.