ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Solomon Patton took Gary Kubiak's words to heart.
As the offense huddled late in practice, the Broncos' head coach walked over with words of advice.
"He came into the huddle right before I made one of those catches and said, 'Receivers, it's either you catch the ball, or nobody catch the ball,'" Patton recalled.
The words have deeper meaning for Patton. His return abilities alone give him a shot to stick on the 53-man roster; his experience on kickoff and punt returns with Tampa Bay last year sets him apart from a group of returners who possess extensive regular-season experience with one or the other, but not both.
But Kubiak has mentioned at press conferences that whoever handles returns must play a role on offense or defense. So the second-year wide receiver knows he must find ways to get open for receptions. And given his skill set, some have to be of the spectacular variety.
His two deep receptions late in the practice elicited some of the loudest roars from fans during training camp. The first saw him break open on a go route up the left sideline; Zac Dysert then spotted him for a a 33-yard touchdown pass to cap the No. 3 offense's work in a two-minute drill period.
On the second pass, he got open deep past Taurean Nixon, reached out and made a beautiful over-the-shoulder reception of a deep bullet fired by rookie Trevor Siemian.
These aren't the first explosive receptions he's made during training camp. But coming in close succession and in front of a UCHealth Training Center-record crowd of 5,507, they were hard to ignore.
"Obviously we know returning is a specialty of his, but if he can go out there and make plays as a wideout, it's going to make him even more valuable to making this football team," Kubiak said. "He's done it a couple days in a row."
At 5-foot-9 and 177 pounds, Patton is the Broncos' smallest wide receiver. Only one player on the entire roster is lighter (175-pound CB Tony Carter); only one is shorter (5-foot-8 RB C.J. Anderson). But he uses his lack of size to his advantage.
"I've got speed. That's pretty much all I need. And some hands," Patton. "So I should be fine."
TWEETS FROM THE FIELD:
... After working in shoulder pads Thursday, the Broncos worked without them for the first time since last Saturday's practice.
... Patton's touchdown catch from Dysert was the only touchdown for the offense in its two-minute drill period. The scenario involved the offense taking possession a 23-21 deficit, two minutes remaining, two timeouts and the football at its 30-yard-line.
... QB Peyton Manning and the No. 1 offense drove to a 44-yard Connor Barth field goal against the first-team defense. Manning went 3-of-3 for 31 yards via passes to Andre Caldwell, Jordan Norwood and Cody Latimer.
... In the duel of the second units, the defense came out ahead after rookie CB Taurean Nixon intercepted a Brock Osweiler pass to Nathan Palmer in the right flat.
... Although Patton stole the show late, WR Bennie Fowler had arguably the best single reception of the day with a 1-yard touchdown from Osweiler to cap a move-the-ball seven-on-seven period. Fowler ran a fade route to the back right corner and leapt for the pass, managing to keep his feet in-bounds despite a push from CB Kayvon Webster.
... Kubiak used some pistol looks in the offense as he and the coaches continue to meld old and new concepts into the Broncos' attack. "We've basically taken our schemes and what we do, put [Manning] in the gun and doing it," Kubiak said. The Broncos used some pistol formations on occasion over the last three seasons. "We're taking a look at both ends. Like I told you, we're going to do it all. We're going to find out what we do best. We're going to have the ability to do it all."
... RB Montee Ball had some of his strongest runs of training camp, including one where he read the flow of the play perfectly, cutting back left as the blockers went right for what would have been a long gain under game conditions.
... Rookie Max Garcia and 2014 practice-squad player Matt Paradis worked on the first team at left guard and center, respectively, for a second consecutive day. Paradis had one low and wide snap on a shotgun play that Manning fielded, but in general the timing between Paradis and Manning appeared better than it did during their first practice together Thursday.
... One of Anderson's best runs came when he used a seal block from Garcia on DE Kenny Anunike to burst forward. But one play later, Anunike got a pressure of Manning by sprinting forward, then quickly cutting back and forcing pressure to Manning's right side.
... WR Jordan Norwood took advantage of the extra repetitions created by Emmanuel Sanders' hamstring injury and had several receptions from Manning and Osweiler.
... DE Malik Jackson blew up a handful of run plays with penetration into the backfield. Jackson also generated some pressure on Manning during the course of the day.
... Barth received all the kicks in the field-goal period and went 5-for-5 on attempts of 27, 36, 43 (twice) and 54 yards.
The best shots from Day 8 of training camp at UCHealth Training Center. (All photos by Eric Lars Bakke)
... WR Emmanuel Sanders sat out practice with a hamstring injury. "It'll be a day-to-day type thing," Kubiak said, categorizing the injury as "very minor."
... WR Demaryius Thomas continued to see his team repetitions increase as he works his way back to full participation after missing the offseason because of an unsigned contract tender.
... DE Malik Jackson was back to a full workload after being eased into team-period work one day earlier.
... ILB Brandon Marshall got team-period work for a second consecutive day.
... ILB Danny Trevathan returned from an illness Thursday and participated in individual and seven-on-seven work.
... DE Vance Walker returned to practice Friday after an excused absence Thursday.
... DE Antonio Smith worked most of the practice and saw team repetitions throughout the morning.
... OT Michael Schofield returned to practice after missing Thursday's work because of a back issue, but was limited.
... ILB Steven Johnson watched practice from the sideline after suffering a knee sprain Thursday.
... CB Tevrin Brandon returned after missing three consecutive practices due to a shoulder injury he suffered last Sunday.
... DE Derek Wolfe is going through the league-mandated concussion protocol and did not practice.
... OLB Lerentee McCray, S Ross Madison and NT Marvin Austin remained sidelined with groin injuries.
... CB Curtis Marsh sat out because of tightness in his quadriceps muscle that set in during Thursday's practice.
... TE Jeff Heuerman (torn ACL) is out indefinitely. He cannot go on the injured reserve list until the 75-man roster deadline Sept. 1.
... CB Kayvon Webster received attention from Head Athletic Trainer Steve Antonopulos, but "just got the wind knocked out of him," Kubiak said, and will be fine.
... CB Chris Harris Jr.'s practice work was truncated because of a cramp.
... TE Virgil Green had a dislocated finger, but finished practice.
... S David Bruton Jr. left practice because of a sore Achilles tendon but is "fine," Kubiak said.
WEATHER REPORT:Mostly sunny skies with some passing high clouds. Temperatures rose from 81°F/27.2°C to 85°F/29.4°C by the time practice concluded.
ATTENDANCE:5,507, a record since camp moved to Broncos headquarters in 2003. Total camp attendance: 30,422 (average: 4,346).
Get a first look at the photos from UCHealth Training Center for Broncos Training Camp Day 8.