AURORA, Colo. -- As Colorado continues to come together as a community in the wake of Thursday's tragic shootings, several Broncos players visited injured victims and their families on Sunday.
Ryan Clady, Eric Decker, Ben Garland, Chris Kuper, Joe Mays, Jacob Tamme and former Bronco Brian Dawkins spent time with three of the injured victims at the Medical Center of Aurora. The group listened to the stories of the patients and the hospital staff that was working as the injured patients were admitted.
Earlier in the day, Peyton Manning called the hospital rooms to talk with some of the victims.
"It was just such a tragic event," Mays said. "You just wish that things like that never happened, but it did and my heart goes out to all the family members and loved ones. Today, we just wanted to come here and speak to those that were in the hospital and just talk to them a little bit. We just wanted to show extra support to them."
The first patient the players visited was Steve Barton, who was in the process of biking across the country. All seven players piled in Barton's room and talked with him, his family and his friend, Ethan Rodriguez-Torrent, who is also on the bike trip.
"We just wanted to come out show support and to be able to crack a smile with these guys -- it's good to see that they're making progress," Decker said. "I think they're excited to get out of here, but it's just good to see a smile on their face."
Next, the group met with Carey Rottman, who suffered a gunshot wound to the leg.
When the conversation turned to football, they discovered a connection. Rottman, who played running back at Winona State College, actually played against Kuper's North Dakota teams.
"It meant the world," Rottman said. "Especially with some of the guys I had a connection with through college football – we knew a lot of the same people and that just brings them down to more of a real level. It's surreal."
He and Kuper talked about some of their college games and Rottman found out he had friends that had played with Mays and Decker at North Dakota State and Minnesota, respectively.
"We're just here to show support for the medical staff and some of the victims and just kind of do what we can to help people," Kuper said. "Hopefully we can lift someone's spirits after such a tragedy."
The third victim that players met with was Josh Nowlen, who dove on top of his two friends to shield them from the bullets. An Iraq war veteran, Nowlen suffered injuries to his arm and leg.
Players spent time talking to Nowlen and his family and quickly discovered that they were talking to a group of Patriots fans.
Although the two groups didn't agree on their favorite football team, both left the conversation with smiles.
"A lot of these victims are in great spirits and just happy and blessed to be alive," Clady said.
In addition to spending time with the patients, the players also visited with the emergency room staff that initially treated the patients.
"We're just thrilled to have the Broncos here to visit with the patients and uplift their spirits as well as the staff that was here," Acting President of the Medical Center of Aurora Bill Voloch said. "There's no doubt it helps the patients in every way. As they're trying to recover from their injuries, it's just a wonderful thing for the players to be able to come down and visit with them."
The players felt that taking the time before training camp to visit the hospital was the least they could do.
"When a tragedy happens to us as people, what I quickly do is think, 'What if that was me? What if that was my brother? Or what if that was a friend going through that?'" Dawkins said. "It's such a surreal thing that can happen in any place. So, I wanted to get in here and visit as many people as I could as quickly as possible to just bring a smile to their faces in the midst of what they're going through right now."
Colorado native Ben Garland echoed Dawkins' thoughts.
"Colorado is a tight community," he said. "We just wanted to come together and do anything we could for these victims. It's been a tough summer for everyone, so if we can do even a small part just to help them out, we will."