ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Thanksgiving Day brought a typical practice for the Broncos.
"It's Thanksgiving and all of that, but very much businesslike in terms of what we did on the field," Interim Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio said.
But as the team was huddling up to close practice, a familiar face stepped into the center of the circle.
Head Coach John Fox, who has been cleared by doctors to return to coaching on Monday, paid a surprise visit to Dove Valley to wish the team a happy Thanksgiving and give a quick speech.
"We had our leader return today," Del Rio said. "He addressed the team, talked about how proud he is of what we're doing and how we've got to finish this quarter up right with our trip to Kansas City. Talked about all of the focus being on that, and talked about next week being there after this weekend and for us to do nothing but get ourselves ready for the Chiefs this weekend and that's what we'll do."
There were plenty of hugs to go around for Fox, who received an ovation from the team when he emerged in the huddle.
"It was great, great to see his shining face. He definitely had a lot of smiles," team captain David Bruton said. "He shared with us how grateful he was. It hit me because you don't realize how precious time is – and how important health is. It's given with our game, but something that serious – that severe – could happen to anyone. Just grateful that he's healthy, he's moving around and he was able to come be with the team today, especially on Thanksgiving, just sharing what he's thankful for."
Fox underwent a successful aortic heart valve replacement on Nov. 4. Less than a month later, he will return as the team's head coach.
"Our organization is confident that his health will allow him to meet his head coaching responsibilities," the Broncos said in a statement. "While no formal restrictions will be placed on his workload upon return, he will continue to be monitored by our medical staff as his well-being remains our No. 1 priority."
Fox's message to the team was about how proud he is of the team, how thankful he is and that he's healthy and ready to go for the rest of the year.
"It was exciting," wide receiver Eric Decker said. "We've all missed him, just his energy and his enthusiasm. It's good to see him in good health, to finally be in town and celebrate Thanksgiving with his family – to know that he's coming back next Monday, it was just kind of a rally point for us."