ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — For all the questions about the cohesion of the offensive line on the field, they're putting in the ground work off it during a time when they could be anywhere else but Dove Valley.
They've been sticking around Denver, working out at the practice facility and even going golfing together, as Ben Garland said on the podcast. They've been working to ensure that the cohesion they'd been driving toward during OTAs and the offseason program solidifies through the gap before training camp.
Gino Gradkowski, the center/guard the Broncos traded for in April, has been at the middle of the process, bringing key experience in the new offensive system to help his teammates both new to the Broncos or those just new to Head Coach Gary Kubiak and Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison's offense.
The transition on just an organizational level has been easy for Gradkowski, and he's excited to compete to fulfill new expectations in competing for the starting center spot.
"As a competitor, you want that feeling of people counting on you to come in and compete and be the guy, so that's exciting for me," he said.
Take a look at new Broncos center Gino Gradkowski from his NFL experience with the Ravens.
"When it comes to changing teams, I've been fortunate to be on two great organizations who are winning organizations," Gradkowski added. "There are a lot of similarities with how we do things here in Denver and how we did things in Baltimore just because of the type the organization we are. That part has been kind of an easy transition for me."
Following last season in Baltimore, where Gradkowski first got to know Kubiak as the Ravens' offensive coordinator, the fourth-year offensive lineman is entering his second training camp in the offense and feels a bit more comfortable.
"Really this year what's different is we're trying to get used to the guys next to me, just getting in sync with those guys," Gradkowski said during an interview on Wednesday. "Also, being a year into the offense, I feel more comfortable with it, so that helps a lot too."
He added that the weeks of OTAs and minicamp was a formative foundation for what's to come, getting that base for the chemistry they'll need and knowing the playbook.
But the offense obviously brings two major developments for Gradkowski, one being the man he'll snap the ball to and the other being incorporating young guys like offensive tackle Ty Sambrailo and guard Garland on his left side seamlessly.
Peyton Manning's talent and wealth of knowledge as a field general is well-known, and that precision and attention to detail can help a lot when it comes to bringing players who are moving into bigger roles up to speed.
"Knowing Peyton and knowing how he commands his offense, it kind of pushes everyone to know their stuff a little bit extra," Gradkowski said.
Sambrailo will be expected to make the jump as a rookie in a starting role and Gradkowski's been impressed by the young tackle's ability to soak up experience in repetitions during the offseason program.
"[It's been] just experience, getting reps and kind of getting comfortable out there," Gradkowski said of what the emphasis has been this offseason. "We haven't really made it an emphasis in the meetings but having that understanding that 'next guy up' and Ty's been doing a good job with it."
The progress the offensive line has made to this point has been key, especially after the loss of offensive tackle Ryan Clady to a torn ACL. Although Kubiak said during minicamp "if right now we went to camp, we would have a pretty good idea how we're going to line up," they'll really know how far they've come when camp begins at the end of July.
"You can only learn so much when you don't have the pads on. I think when we get the pads on, it'll be a good indicator of where we are as an offensive line, because up front it's so hard to kind of get a good feeling when you're just in helmets," Gradkowski said. "I think we've come a long way. We've worked hard; I'm really anxious to get the pads on."