ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- On Tuesday, Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway and Head Coach John Fox hosted a conference call with more than 6,000 Broncos season ticket holders.
And both men thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
"They always have great questions," Elway said. "It's nice to be able to get closer to them and to communicate with them directly. I always enjoy doing that."
The call lasted a little more than an hour, with Elway and Fox answering questions on topics ranging from quarterback Peyton Manning to the 2012 NFL Draft class, pressure from the defensive line and how the team can stay level throughout the season.
In other words, it was just like any press conference, but the questions came directly from fans -- and many of the callers spent as much time thanking Elway and Fox for their time as they did asking them questions.
The forum was hosted by Vice President of Corporate Communications Jim Saccomano, who introduced dozens of season ticket holders -- some that have held tickets since 1960, and a handful of brand-new owners -- before they spoke live on the phone with Elway and Fox.
"Thank you very much for joining," Elway said as he closed the call. "We're excited about this year. We've got high hopes, as everyone out there does. We're going to take them one at a time and we're looking forward to having a great, exciting year."
Below are some highlights from the call:
Fox, on the state of the team:
"Our goal every year is to win the world championship. We took some steps last year winning our division, getting into the (postseason) tournament, and this year we want to be that much better. A lot of what we've done, we're moving in that direction. But this game's not won on paper -- you've got to win it between the lines. These guys have been out here working hard through phase-two workouts getting ready for training camp."
Elway, on the draft:
"I think we did well. The bottom line is you never know until you get out there and see them play and see them develop over time. But I think that we hit some areas of need with some very good football players. Derek Wolfe, with our first pick in the second round, is a tenacious guy that has great talent and can rush the passer and do a lot of things for us. We're excited to have him on board -- it was an area of need for us. Brock Osweiler, obviously, is a very athletic, young quarterback that we think is in a good situation to come in and learn and see how it's done by the master in Peyton Manning. We have high expectations for him in the future. Ronnie Hillman is a big-time back that can make some big plays. Any time he touches the ball, he has the potential to go the distance. He's a big-play threat we didn't have out of the backfield. Omar Bolden, very talented guy that missed last season with a bad knee, but I think he's a first- or second-round talent, so we were excited he was still there in the fourth. Philip Blake, a center/guard, a big, physical guy inside, 320 pounds from Baylor, will add some depth and competition for us inside with the guards and centers. Malik Jackson, a defensive end from Tennessee, is a big, long, rangy athlete that we think has a huge upside to him. Then Danny Trevathan out of Kentucky was a tackling machine in Kentucky. He played the Will linebacker. We're excited with the whole class. These guys are all going to be contributors on our football team."
Fox, on altitude providing an advantage:
"I've gone on record as saying I think between the fans and the altitude, we might have the best home field advantage in the league. I think with the addition of Peyton Manning, who has a background of being capable of calling plays at the line with a no-huddle, that's something we could definitely use to our advantage, particularly early in games when opponents are trying to adjust to that altitude."
Fox, on the defensive line:
"I've been a defensive coach for 20-some years in the National Football League as well as college football, and the best pass defense in the world is a pass rush. As you watched the playoffs and the Super Bowl this year, a team like the New York Giants, who were 9-7 in the regular season, got into the tournament. I thought that was the difference in the tournament for them, that rush they were able to administer in the playoffs. It's something that we're building on. I think we injected some currency in the draft inside. I think our perimeter pressure is maybe as good as most with both Elvis (Dumervil) and Von Miller on the edge. We've just got to increase our inside, because that's what makes quarterbacks uncomfortable. It's something that we're building -- hopefully we get there sooner than later."
Elway, on drafting Wolfe:
"We had Derek targeted the whole time. That's why we thought that we could move back and pick up some value, some picks in the draft. … Derek was our target the whole time. We were a little bit nervous, because we'd heard he had been No. 1 on Baltimore's draft board, too, and we didn't know if he was going to get to us. But Derek was our pick the whole time. He was our target."
Elway, on drafting Osweiler:
"I hope that he sits back for four years and learns. When we looked at Brock, the ability to be able to pick up that type of quarterback, that I feel has a tremendous amount of upside, we felt like we got great value at that pick. It's always tough to pick a quarterback that you know is not going to play for you for a while, but we have high hopes for him in the future to where once Peyton decides to hang them up, that he's the guy in waiting that can keep us and we don't miss a beat. When Peyton decides to retire, we can continue to compete for world championships year-in and year-out. To be able to do that, you have to have a quarterback to do that. It's a perfect situation to where there's not the pressure for him to come in and start right away. He's not ready for that. But he's also going to learn from Peyton how things are done. I think it's a great learning experience for him to where we are set for the future and he's our guy for the future. Sometimes you have to sacrifice the short term for the long term, to draft a guy you believe can be that next guy for you. And that's Brock Osweiler."
Elway, on Chris Kuper:
"I think Chris Kuper is coming off that ankle (injury) very well. It looks like he's going to be ready by camp, maybe ready by the middle of June. We think that he's going to be back to full speed."