The Broncos' 2016 training camp is underway with the start of Thursday's practice at UCHealth Training Center. (photos by Eric Bakke)
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The Broncos are moving forward.
That was Head Coach Gary Kubiak's message on Wednesday to the team, and it was his message again on Thursday to the media.
One of his Pro Bowl wide receivers, Emmanuel Sanders, has already taken it to heart.
Sanders racked up six touchdowns, 1135 yards and 14.9 yards per reception in 2015-16. By any measure – and especially when paired with Demaryius Thomas' totals – that output would be deemed successful. But Sanders said Thursday, after the first practice of 2016 training camp, that he doesn't feel like he gets the respect he deserves.
"I've still got a lot to prove," Sanders said. "A lot of people have been sleeping on me, and they're still sleeping on me. I still don't feel like I get the credit that's due. Even coming off a Super Bowl win, nobody is even talking about me. So I'm just going to keep going out there. Keep improving and keep showing the world, 'Hey, look at this No. 10 in Denver.'"
And so, Sanders is focused on moving toward an even better 2016.
That work began Thursday during practice and continued well after the day's first session had ended. Sanders was one of the final players off the field, as he stayed behind to catch more balls and get in some extra work.
Some of Broncos Country's most passionate fans were lined up for the opening of training camp Thursday morning. (photos by Aric DiLalla except for those noted by Eric Bakke)
Sanders can't prove himself if he's hurt, though, and he recognized Thursday that he has at times pushed himself too hard at training camp.
"It makes me want to pace myself," Sanders said. "I'm one of those guys that comes running out here fast and next thing you know I'm hurt during training camp, and I'm not back until the first game of the year. So I'm just really trying to pace myself. Sometimes I just overwork myself, and today, I just came in with a cool mindset of, 'Hey look, it's just one day at a time, knock out one bird at a time. Don't try to rush it. Just get yourself prepared for Carolina.'"
In addition to Sanders' goal of beating the Panthers, he also said he wants to get past the 1,000-yard mark in 2016.
"It was definitely a grind, but that's another goal," Sanders said. "Me and Demaryius are trying to be the best wide receiver group in the National Football League, and I think we've proven that the last two years."
Thomas said Wednesday he hopes to play alongside No. 10 for a number of years. The Broncos and Sanders' representation will continue to work until "both can say that's a fair deal." Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager John Elway said at Wednesday's media barbecue that he hoped to get a deal done with the Pro Bowl wide receiver.
"I want to be here," said Sanders, reiterating a stance he's held all summer.
For now, he's more concerned with his on-field execution. Thomas and Sanders aren't quite sure who will emerge from the wide receiving corps as the third WR option, but Sanders said he "believes in these guys" and the talent spread among the group. As the Broncos begin training camp, however, most of Sanders' attention is focused on his own game.
"As far as me personally, I'm just coming in," Sanders said. "It's either one of two things, you're either getting better or you're getting worse.
"And I'm trying to get better. So I was out here busting my butt trying to improve."