ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --** The kicking specialists have it easy at training camp -- relatively speaking. While their teammates smash into each other for most of practice on the west field at Broncos headquarters, kicker Matt Prater, long snapper Aaron Brewer and punters Britton Colquitt and Ryan Doerr work at a more relaxed pace on the field closest to the main building at Dove Valley.
Half of the east-field denizens now have big-money, seven-figure, multi-year contracts now that Britton Colquitt signed a three-year extension that puts him under team control through 2016. While appreciative of the deal, Colquitt has enough self-awareness to understand that his work at this point of the year doesn't match up to most of his teammates.
"They make fun of us a lot, but then when training camp rolls around, they hate us and they're really jealous of us," Colquitt said. "They see us hanging around the locker room; they're sweating at meetings."
If you go by the often-accepted value of each yard of field position being worth 0.08 points, then
Colquitt's net average last year of 42.119 yards per punt -- which was 2.177 yards better than the league average -- was worth 5.834 points above the league average to the Broncos last year. (In 2011, that was 4.934 points above the league average, when Colquitt had a lower net average, but punted 34 more times than in 2012.)
Colquitt won't earn his money during camp practices. That will come when the Broncos are stopped at midfield from September onward and need to drop a punt inside the 10-yard-line.
- Wes Welker was back practicing Monday, and had a prolific day. At one point during one of the team periods, he was targeted on four of five passes thrown by Manning. This also included arguably the best connection of the day between the quarterback and his new slot receiver, a perfectly placed pass that arced into Welker's grasp near the left sideline, leaving cornerback Chris Harris no chance at either an interception or a breakup.
- Nate Irving's work at strong-side linebacker last Thursday was noteworthy, both in his return to the position where he was a backup last year and the result of it: a forced fumble that led to the game's only touchdown. This might loom large if Von Miller's appeal of his four-game suspension fails, and while Shaun Phillips might be in the mix at some point, Irving's full-scale work with the second-team at the strong-side spot last Thursday -- along with his experience backing up there last year -- could loom large in the Broncos' defensive plans.
"He's got strong hands. He snatches you pretty good," said Broncos coach John Fox. "You play over the tight end quite a bit as a 'sam' (linebacker)."
Stewart Bradley continued to man the middle linebacker spot, but also rotated in with the third team for some extra work. It was during that period when he intercepted Zac Dysert, leaning back to snatch a pass intended for Gerell Robinson.
- It was a positive sign for tight end Jacob Tamme that he was back in uniform Monday, but his light workload indicates that he'll be brought back slowly, which means continued heavy repetition counts for Julius Thomas and Virgil Green at the position.
"As soon as I'm fully healthy, I'll be fully going," Tamme said. "Today was a good step in the right direction."
Fellow tight end Joel Dreessen was also at practice, but he's just a week removed from a second knee surgery this summer and was not in uniform, with his targeted return set for later this month. His recovery and Tamme's slow build towards a full workload will give Thomas more chances to refine his blocking, which was both promising and frustrating during the preseason opener.
- It's also apparent that cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and left tackle Ryan Clady will be eased back into work. Both saw a handful of repetitions with the first team Monday; Rodgers-Cromartie in full pads, and Clady with shoulder pads and sweatpants.
Rodgers-Cromartie was tested immediately. On his first seven-on-seven snap, quarterback Brock Osweiler threw in his direction. Rodgers-Cromartie was covering wide receiver Lamaar Thomas on a short crossing route, and broke up the pass to get his work off to a good start.
Clady looked more comfortable today than he did Saturday. He was beaten to the inside by defensive lineman Derek Wolfe on one play, but also looked better getting set, fighting off upper-body pass rush moves and in driving off the line of scrimmage. The Broncos have the luxury of taking their time with him, but Clady's day-to-day progress offers evidence that he'll be in tip-top form by Sept. 5.
- New offensive lineman Ryan Lilja continues to adjust, but his quickness and vision starting to show as he grasps the offense. During one play during a team period, Lilja moved in one direction to block, then quickly pivoted in another to take out the defender nearest to the carry, helping set up a decent gain.