ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The kid from Wiggins is about to get his first chance to play at Broncos Stadium at Mile High.
Rookie offensive lineman Dalton Risner and the Broncos will practice at the team’s stadium on Saturday afternoon, and it will mark the first time the Colorado native competes on his new home field.
“I’m glad I’m doing this before I play my first game there,” Risner said Friday. “That way, maybe I can let a little bit of the emotion out tomorrow. So, no cameras when I walk out to practice.”
Wide receiver Juwann Winfree will be making a return appearance at the stadium after playing in the Rocky Mountain Showdown with the Colorado Buffaloes.
“It’s going to be a special moment,” Winfree said. “Any time I’m just in a stadium like that – just the environment — you feel good. You feel empowered. I had a touchdown in that stadium the last time I played there, so I’m looking forward to making more plays tomorrow when I’m out there and just that feeling of being in the game stadium, just the feeling of that atmosphere.”
The game-like atmosphere is part of the reason that Head Coach Vic Fangio decided to have the team practice in the stadium for the first time since 2014.
“It will be good for those young guys, especially some of these guys that have been at small schools where they don’t see a crowd or a stadium that big," Fangio said. “It can be a little imposing. Hopefully it helps them for next Thursday and the rest of preseason and moving forward. I think there’s benefit to it. That’s why we did it. We didn’t have to do it. They asked me if I wanted to do it and I said, ‘Yeah. let’s do it.’”
The Broncos kick off their preseason schedule on Aug. 1 in the Pro Football Hall of Fame game.
Their practice on Saturday is slated for 2:15-4:15 p.m.
“It's going to be good to get the feeling again, to have all those younger guys get the feeling of what it's like, and just to be able to get us back in there,” second-year linebacker Josey Jewell said. “It's going to feel good, and it's going to be awesome to be able to have a practice in there and make it feel more like a game."
A PASS-INTERFERENCE PROBLEM?
NFL referee Walt Anderson and a crew of referees met with the Broncos on Thursday to go over rules changes and how those rules would be enforced.
The biggest change is undoubtedly that coaches may now challenge pass-interference calls — both calls that are made and calls that are missed. The new rule comes in light of a missed call in the 2018 NFC Championship when a Saints receiver was contacted before the ball arrived. The no-call likely changed the outcome of the game, which resulted in a Rams win.
In 2019, coaches can use one of their existing two challenges — or their third if they get the first two challenges correct — to review both offensive and defensive pass interference.
Inside of two minutes, any reviews will be initiated by the replay booth.
“The rule is what it is,” Fangio said. ‘What everybody seems to forget or it gets glossed over is they did not increase the coach’s challenges. You still only have two. And if you’re right on two you get a third. That play that happened in New Orleans which caused all this, just to use New Orleans as the example, if [New Orleans Saints head coach] Sean Payton — that same exact play happens at the same exact time this year — if he’s out of timeouts or out of challenges, that play is going to stand again just like it did in the past. … The use of challenges may even go down because nobody wants to get caught late in the fourth quarter when they’ve been hosed on a call or no call to be out of them, so it’ll be interesting.”
Fangio, a first-time head coach, has never challenged a play before — and it doesn’t sound like he’s going to wait long to start.
“We do play the first game of this season next Thursday,” Fangio said laughing. “I’m going to throw the first challenge flag for OPI or DPI.”
THE OFFENSE’S BEST DAY
In Fangio’s opinion, the Broncos’ offense “probably” had their best day of training camp.
Quarterback Joe Flacco didn’t throw an interception, and he converted on a handful of big plays, including a deep throw down the middle to Courtland Sutton that covered at least 60 yards through the air.
Fangio just hopes the offense’s production didn’t come with a caveat.
“I thought it was a little better operation than it has been and that’s good to see,” Fangio said. “Hopefully when I go back and look at it, it’s good play by them and not crappy play by the defense. Hopefully it’s good play by both sides and they’re winning. [I] don’t know the answer to that yet.”