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'I'm back, baby': Emmanuel Sanders returns to 7-on-7 work

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — For the first time in training camp, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders participated in 7-on-7 drills.

"I didn’t watch him when he was in there," Head Coach Vic Fangio said Wednesday. "I’ll watch it when I go [in], but that was the plan today to get him anywhere from four to six plays in the 7-on-7 period. That’s the starting point, and hopefully, slowly, he’ll start doing more and more."

For the 10th-year receiver, it's simply the latest step in his return from an Achilles injury that he suffered in early December.

"I’m looking forward to continuously, gradually [returning to] 7-on-7 to team [and] hopefully 1-on-1’s," Sanders said. "Hopefully in two or three weeks here, I’ll be full speed and full go all the way around."

Sanders dove to make his first catch during the 7-on-7 period, and he said he asked his teammates afterward if he needed to make quite that effort to haul in the pass.

"I don’t know if I had to dive," Sanders said. "But when I caught it, I said ‘I’m back, baby.' It felt good. I’m looking forward to tomorrow [and] keep on getting better.”

Wide receiver Courtland Sutton is eager to see Sanders continue to progress.

“It was amazing being able to see him out there getting some 7-on-7 reps,” Sutton said. “It was so cool being able to see him moving around against the defense and everything. The guy has been working his butt off. Ever since he got hurt, he went in and took care of what he had to take care of and in the offseason took care what he needed to take care of and worked his butt off. Y’all all saw it because he put it on his Instagram pretty much every day of how hard he was in there working, doing rehab, doing the runs, everything. To see him come out here and be able to go full speed for the first couple times, it was awesome and there’s a lot more coming from that. I hope y’all know that we’re going to get the Emmanuel Sanders back that everybody knows.”

As Sanders continues the recovery process, he said he and the training staff won't push him back too soon.

"I think just talking with the trainers and just knowing we have plenty of time and [that] Week 1 is the most important thing [is important]," Sanders said. "There’s really no rush. I do want to get back out here. I do want to go 1-on-1 and talk smack to Chris Harris and be myself, but at the same time, it’s a process, and I’ve got to respect that process."

INJURY UPDATES

Wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton did not finish practice after suffering an injury.

"He tweaked his hamstring during practice, and we're evaluating it now," Fangio said.

Tight end Jake Butt (knee) missed his third consecutive practice, and Fangio said "he's hit a little pothole here in his road to recovery."

"I don't think it's anything too, too serious at this point," Fangio said. "He could be out here tomorrow or he could be another day or two."

Wide receiver Juwann Winfree (leg), meanwhile, missed his second consecutive practice.

"I think Winfree’s getting better," Fangio said. "We just decided to give him one more day. I think he’ll be out here tomorrow, but don’t hold me to that."

Wide receiver River Cracraft (muscle) and linebacker Todd Davis (calf) were also held out of practice.

MORE THAN A DEEP THREAT

In 2018, Courtland Sutton made a living on deep passes down the field. Whether he hauled them in or drew pass interference penalties, Sutton was a threat every time he took off down the sideline.

This year, though, Sutton is looking to do more.

“This offseason, that was one big thing I wanted to work on: being able to run every route on the route tree,” Sutton said Wednesday. “I feel like last year I said I could run every route on the route tree, but going back and watching the film, there were a lot of tells that I was giving away that made it hard for me to run those routes on the tree. I really worked on being able to run all those intermediate routes so that I wouldn’t just be a guy that’s known for going deep on the outside. That’s still something I have in my arsenal, but I want to be able to run all of those routes so that it can set up those big-shot plays.”

A HALL OF FAME PLAN

The Pro Football Hall of Fame game is just over a week away, but Fangio said the coaching staff hasn't decided which players would appear in the game.

"We haven’t sat down and talked about it yet," Fangio said. "There could be some starters that get a little playing time, but to be honest with you, we haven’t really discussed it yet."

Most teams tend to hold the majority of their starters out for the Hall of Fame game and let their younger players benefit from the reps.

The Broncos are scheduled to hold five more practices before leaving for Canton, Ohio for the game.

NO NEED FOR SCUFFLES

The Broncos had their first scuffle of training camp when Connor McGovern and Derek Wolfe exchanged words after a team-period play.

Fangio made it clear after practice that he was not a fan of the extra-curricular activity.

"We talked about it," Fangio said. "I don’t like it. There’s no need for it. We need to refrain from that."

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