ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **The starters were back, the sun beat down on the fields, and the Broncos went through their longest and most arduous practice of training camp so far.
The rigors of the practice were as much mental as physical, and by the time it was done, Wednesday's one-day respite from full-contact work seemed especially welcome.
"That was our longest practice so far, and we had a lot of stuff. We went to the red zone today and had a lot of new teaching, and with that came a lot of mistakes, so we've got a lot of things as coaches to go back and fix," Head Coach Gary Kubiak said.
At one point between a team red-zone period and another with snaps near midfield, Kubiak gathered the team in a huddle, something he's done during a majority of camp practices so far.
The Denver Broncos take the field at UCHealth Training Center for their second day in full pads.
"You just always try to remind them of where you're at," Kubiak said. "I think the first thing as coach you want to see [is] that. You don't want to see them waiting on you all the time because you're not out there on the field with them come game days. You want to see your leaders stop things like that and regroup.
"But that's part of football, too; during the game, you have bad things happen. Can you regroup and go the next series? That's the way practice is. I was just trying to remind them each and every day."
Kubiak had shared some displeasure with how the team finished some of its recent practices, but liked the energy he saw as the team closed out its work in another red-zone period. All three sequences ended with touchdown passes: Peyton Manning-to-C.J. Anderson, Brock Osweiler-to-Isaiah Burse and Zac Dysert to Bennie Fowler.
"The thing [with which] I was really pleased at practice today: at the end of the day, when the team was dragging, the quarterbacks made plays. All three of them made big plays," Kubiak said. "That's what they've got to do. That's their job."
And that was a good place to stop for a break.
"Usually when you've had your pads on for three days, that's probably about as bad as [the players] are going to feel all year long," Kubiak said.
"It's a gut check right now. They know it. They're telling each other that, and that's a good thing. As a team, if you're going to get to where you want to go, you've got to push through those days."
TWEETS FROM THE FIELD:
... It's never a surprise when OLB Von Miller dominates a play in the pass-rush drill, but when he ducked under RT Ryan Harris' arm without losing stride to burst into the backfield, even the three-time Pro Bowler was amazed. With his defensive teammates oohing, the giddy Miller promptly sprinted 50 yards back upfield and up to the doors leading to the locker room before coming back.
... RG Louis Vasquez and center Gino Gradkowski continue to hone their timing together. On one play, they both made perfect seals to create a hole that sprung Anderson loose for a big run to the right side. The two linemen celebrated with a fist bump as they went back to the huddle ...
... OT Ty Sambrailo held his own against OLB DeMarcus Ware in one-on-one work. Sambrailo did well at balancing getting his feet set with remaining nimble enough to guide Ware to the outside and behind the quarterback. That allowed Manning enough time to make some deep attempts.
... OLB Shane Ray had some stellar moments during one-on-one drills, including one snap where he set up OT Michael Schofield outside and then spun inside to get to where the quarterback would have been. Ray also beat RT Chris Clark for a sack during a fourth-and-goal simulation; Ray got around the edge and tagged Osweiler for the sack.
-- WR Emmanuel Sanders was active in the red-zone periods, with multiple receptions, including an out route that saw him make a lunging touchdown past just past a diving Chris Harris Jr.
... TE Dominique Jones showed some athleticism in space and downfield, with a handful of receptions during team and seven-on-seven periods.
... RB Juwan Thompson, as usual, got extra yards through scrums by continuing to keep his legs pumping, moving piles for an additional yard or two on multiple carries.
... CB Taurean Nixon burglarized rookie QB Trevor Siemian with an interception on a fade route toward the right corner.
... FB/TE Joe Don Duncan got some chances to share backfield time with QB Peyton Manning and C.J. Anderson. Duncan also saw some work on kickoff returns, blocking for Omar Bolden, who is the incumbent returner and was first up during that period. "I'm impressed with Joe [Don]," Kubiak said. "I can't remember which scout found him, but that was a good find. He fits what we do. He's athletic. He's physical. He's willing to hit, and he's going to be a good special-teams player. That's what we look for in a fullback."
... Duncan was the first player on the field, just beating guard Ben Garland.
... WR Cody Latimer had another solid day, beginning with a deep reception on a go route past Aqib Talib from Manning during the one-on-one period. Another highlight of the one-on-one period was Jordan Norwood's reception from Manning, on which he used a move to the outside and a cut back inside to get separation for the pass from Manning. Norwood's cuts look sharp -- a positive sign considering he is 11 and a half months from suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
... Talib later got the better of Latimer and Manning by intercepting a pass intended for the second-year wide receiver in the back of the end zone.
... QB Zac Dysert hit WR Jordan Taylor on a deep connection from midfield during the team period. Taylor ran a go route up the right sideline and made a good adjustment to slow down and grab the pass.
... Safety Omar Bolden and WR Andre Caldwell handled kickoff returns during a special-teams period. Brandon McManus, Karl Schmitz and Connor Barth each took their turns handling kickoffs. Barth "is gonna have to" get some work in on kickoffs, Special Teams Coordinator Joe DeCamillis said.
... Barth went 4-for-4 and McManus 3-for-4 during a field-goal period in which each had one attempt from 33, 37, 43 and 49 yards. McManus missed a 43-yarder wide left. "I think it's separated by about one miss right now," DeCamillis said of the competition between the pair. "It's pretty close. It's been a good competition so far. We're trying to keep them at the same spots all the way across."
... WR Demaryius Thomas saw his workload increase to include two seven-on-seven periods as he nears full participation. "He practiced for probably an hour and 10 minutes," Kubiak said. "I'm hoping through the course of next week he's pretty much ready to go full with the guys."
... DE Antonio Smith saw his first team repetitions of camp, rotating onto the line. "The thought was to do that today, get a break [Wednesday], then go back at it Thursday," Kubiak said.
... DE Malik Jackson (calf strain) continued to focus on conditioning work during practice.
... CB Tevrin Brandon (arm) missed practice for a second consecutive day.
... DT Marvin Austin Jr. injured his groin Monday and watched practice from the sideline in workout gear. "We've got to get him healthy. Hopefully [Wednesday's] break gives him a little more time to get back on the field," he said. "This is going to be a tough team to make for a lot of people, and we've got to give everybody a legitimate shot, so he needs his reps like anybody else."
... OLB Lerentee McCray suffered a groin injury Monday and did not practice.
... TE Jeff Heuerman (torn ACL) was the only other player on the 90-man roster to not take part in practice. Unless the Broncos want to expose him to the waiver wire, he cannot go on injured reserve before the first cut to 75 players on Sept. 1.
... OT Michael Schofield did not finish practice because his "back was bothering him a little bit," Kubiak said.
... RB Kapri Bibbs left practice because of an ankle injury.
... TE Virgil Green gingerly left the field at the end of practice but was "okay," Kubiak said.
... "We're at that stage [of camp]; we've got a lot of nicks," Kubiak said. "Nothing that shouldn't have everybody back out here Thursday."
WEATHER REPORT:A few clouds but plenty of sun greeted fans, players and coaches. Temperatures rose from 77°F/25°C to 80°F/26.7°C by the end of practice.
ATTENDANCE: 4,787. Total camp attendance: 20,668 (average: 4,134).