ENGLEWOOD, Colo.** – Just a few months into his tenure with the Broncos, safety Darian Stewart is already fitting right in with Denver's Pro Bowl-laden secondary.
But one defensive back in particular that Stewart has been clicking with isn't a new acquaintance. Safety T.J. Ward and Stewart go back five years to the 2010 NFL Combine where both up-and-coming safeties met and became fast friends.
"We actually came in together," Stewart said of their first meeting. "I met T.J. at the combine. When we play each other, we actually chop it up here and there, but the relationship is good. It's good chemistry."
"It's been good," Ward said of teaming up with Stewart. "I remember D. Stew from when we came in together at the combine. We even talked and hung out a little bit at the Combine. So I knew when we signed him it would be a good fit for us. He's been playing very well. I think we're getting closer to that cohesion and chemistry."
The fans are back and the Broncos are on the field for Wednesday's practice at UCHealth Training Center.
Now five years since they first met, both Stewart and Ward have both found a home in Denver as they each prepare for the start of their sixth season in the NFL. But unlike other seasons, this year the friends will line up next to each other in the orange and blue with Stewart at free safety and Ward at strong safety.
"I'll tell you what, it's cool, man. You never know," Stewart said. "Meeting new people and to actually work with them, I think that it's good."
Stewart joins a proficient secondary that is backed by a trio of Pro Bowlers in Ward and cornerbacks Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib, all of whom were stout defensive forces for the Broncos last season. The three of them already work well together, but Ward isn't worried about Stewart fitting in with them.
"I think it's kind of working," Ward said. "We're all working together. Because me, Chris and Talib have only really had one year, so we're still kind of learning each other and feeling each other and how guys play. [We're] trying to have that nonverbal communication where you already know what they're going to do. So it's almost like he's just coming in and we're still learning together."
Time will only help the defensive backs find cohesion. In Ward's words, "That's only going to come with games," but they'll give the first glimpse of their progress on Friday when the Broncos head to Seattle for their first preseason game of the year.
"I think that we're there and it's only going to get better," Stewart said. "I feel like I have been doing a good job with making sure that the communication is there and getting everyone lined up. It's only going to get better as the season goes. I think that these preseason games will help us a lot."
With the rain away and the Broncos returned to the practice field at UCHealth Training Center for Day 12 of training camp. (All photos by Eric Lars Bakke)