ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The situation was undoubtedly new for Case Keenum.
Through the first six years of his NFL career, he had never stood where he did Tuesday: as the unquestioned starter of his team entering OTAs.
Three teams and four cities led him to the podium in Denver, and after his first practice against Denver’s defense, Keenum didn’t deny his new reality was a welcome change.
“Yeah, it feels different,” Keenum said. “It feels good. I like it. I like competing, I like knowing my place and knowing my role. There's some comfortableness to that and I think that that puts different things at ease and lets you go out there and play. It lets you cut it loose. It's nice.”
Head Coach Vance Joseph, who oversaw the first of his team’s 10 OTA practices, watched Keenum lead the huddle through Phase II of the offseason program. As such, Keenum’s poise guiding the first-team offense didn’t surprise the second-year head coach.
“I’ve seen it,” Joseph said.
Joseph’s also seen the positive impact Keenum’s leadership can have on the entire team.
On a sunny spring day in Colorado, the Broncos kicked off their OTA (Organized Team Activities) sessions, taking the team into a new part of the offseason program. (Photos by Gabriel Christus)
“This is Case’s first time having a chance to really be the guy,” Joseph said. “So he’s excited about that, [and] I’m excited for him. His entire career, he’s been a backup. He’s become the starter because of injury most of the time, but this is his first time being the guy, so it’s been fun to watch.
“It’s good for our football team. It’s good for our coaches. It’s good to have a guy in place.”
Keenum’s teammates seem to agree.
Running back Devontae Booker said the standard in the huddle has changed and “feels more demanding.”
“That’s his huddle, and whatever he wants us to do, we’ll get it right,” Booker said.
De’Angelo Henderson, who returned to the field Tuesday after a serious car accident on May 12, could also see the difference in the Keenum-led huddle.
“He’s real confident in himself,” Henderson said. “He’s not like a loud, rude guy. He’s calmer. He’ll point here or there like, ‘Hey guys, chill, let’s have some fun.’ He’s that kind of guy. He’s definitely a leader. You can tell that from Day 1 [from] how he [is] on the field.”
Keenum doesn’t seem likely to take that sort of respect for granted. As he’s improved as a quarterback over the previous six seasons, he’s also taken notes on how to better himself as a leader. That’s inherently part of the equation for a quarterback, and Keenum has prioritized that responsibility.
“Yeah, you're always learning,” Keenum said. “You're always learning and you're always getting better. You're either getting better or you're getting worse. I try to get better each day, especially off the field. Being quarterback doesn't stop when I step off the field. It's going on in [the building] there, too.”
That’s the message he expressed during his introductory press conference in Denver, and it’s a message he seems likely to repeat so long as he leads the Broncos’ huddle.
“It’s like I said my first day here with you guys: I’m trying to earn the right to lead these guys,” Keenum said. “I think that started that day and I think it’s continued up until now and I think it’s going to keep continuing as long as I’m here. I want to earn that right every day that I’m here.
“That’s how I view the position. That’s how I view being a leader. I want my actions to speak louder than my words.”
Both spoke loudly on Tuesday.