Denver Broncos | News

Gray Matter: May 31

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Another busy week at Dove Valley, so let's get right to the questions.

@graycaldwell @denverbroncos Has the dates and times for training camp been posted. Go Broncos!!! — Jay Osterholt (@JayOsterholt) May 29, 2013

No, they haven't been posted yet, but I'd expect them to be announced in the next three weeks or so. Last year, for reference, the dates were announced on June 25. In 2011, the announcement came on June 26. Typically there are approximately 18 practices free and open to the public, most likely including a session held at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. For those that haven't attended a training camp practice, a little bit of background info for you. There are no bleachers at Dove Valley for seating at training camp, with the exception of an ADA accessible tent. But the Broncos have perhaps one of the most intimate viewing environments of any NFL training camp. Fans can watch the practices from selected areas inluding on the West end of the practice fields and -- depending on attendance -- one of the end zones of a practice field. The players and fans are very close -- don't be surprised if a receiver ends up on the hill with the fans after sprinting to catch a ball right at the sideline. Autographs are available at the end of practice, and players are assigned specific days to sign autographs by position group. Speaking of attendance, last season the previous training-camp attendance record was shattered -- nearly 85,000 fans came out to watch the club prepare for its 13-3 season culminating in the AFC's No. 1 seed. Nothing is official yet, but typically the first day of camp comes on a Thursday in late July. So if I had to guess right now, I'd say Thursday, July 25 looks like a viable candidate to kick off this year's edition. Don't hold me to it, so if anyone is planning a trip to Denver to check out camp, the safest bet is early August to make sure camp has begun. Again, we should have the official dates posted on DenverBroncos.com by the end of June.

That's a good thought. To this point, the Broncos have retired just three numbers in their history -- John Elway's No. 7, Frank Tripucka's No. 18 and Floyd Little's No. 44. Two of those three players are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and you might have noticed the Broncos currently have a No. 18 on the team. Tripucka gave Peyton Manning his blessing to wear the number when he signed with Denver last offseason. In other words, it's a very rare honor. With regards to T.D., he's definitely one of a handful of players that could even be in consideration for such an honor. Maybe Shannon Sharpe is in that discussion as well? What about Gary Zimmerman? Steve Atwater? Karl Mecklenburg? For now, the team has elected Davis to its Ring of Fame, along with all of those others named -- 24 in all. Some day, Davis' No. 30 could join No. 7, No. 18 and No. 44, but for now the Ring of Fame will do -- and at some point hopefully the Hall of Fame.

Speaking of the Hall of Fame, another good question. Technically, no one enters the Hall of Fame with any team in particular. And Manning will always be remembered as a Colt first -- after all, he was named to the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 2000s as a Colt, won four NFL MVPs and one Super Bowl there along with 11 Pro Bowls. He led the Colts to the playoffs 11 times. Now, there are examples of players that are remembered best for their second team. Zimmerman is one of them -- he played more years in Minnesota than in Denver, but is best remembered as a Bronco. Reggie White is arguably best remembered as a Packer even though he didn't go to Green Bay until late in his career. That perception was helped by the fact that he went to two Super Bowls with the Packers, winning one, and earned NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors in Green Bay. So, to answer your question -- if Manning stays in Denver four years, five years, maybe more and wins at least one Super Bowl? Maybe he wins another NFL MVP award? His Broncos years would almost certainly be remembered just as fondly as his Colts days. Regardless, I'm not sure Manning would ever be remembered primarily as a Bronco, but he could find himself immortalized in Sports Authority Field at Mile High in the team's Ring of Fame.

Manning did tell CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco that he takes it "one year at a time." He also said he still loves the game. And he knows he can still play. "If I can still go out there and perform and be effective, and still enjoy doing it, I will do it," Manning told Prisco. No one really knows the answer to that question other than Manning. But if Denver truly does end the season the way it wants to, and Manning is playing at the high level he is accustomed to, why wouldn't Manning come back? Knowing the type of competitor he is, it would almost be more surprising if he did "ride of into the sunset." As you may recall, the Broncos went on to win back-to-back Super Bowls following their last devastating playoff loss in 1996. "I see a lot of similarities there, and hopefully they can get two Lombardis," Zimmerman said last week. "Two or three — make a dynasty." Admittedly, we're getting a little ahead of ourselves there. Moving on.

Mays is a veteran with starting experience, which is always a valuable commodity. The middle linebacker position is one that seems to be as up in the air as any position on the roster, though Head Coach John Fox has said that Nate Irving will get the first crack at the job. A college free agent from last season, Steven Johnson, and veteran free-agent addition Stewart Bradley -- who was the starting MLB for the Eagles for two seasons -- are also in the mix. But Mays is still working hard to fully recover from a knee injury that sent him to injured reserve last season, and he's seeing his fair share of reps throughout OTAs. In fact, he grabbed an interception in Thursday's session that sent Robert Ayers and Knowshon Moreno sprinting over to congratulate him. Coach Fox has always said that every player's role is up to that particular player to define. So while Mays might be behind some players now, how he performs in the rest of OTAs, the mandatory minicamp and eventually training camp and the preseason will be a big factor to determine exactly what his role will be.

Well, as Champ Bailey said, the Broncos are "stacked" at cornerback. And the club just added another one in Quentin Jammer, though Fox said his versatility is his biggest strength, as the 6-foot, 204-pound defensive back will get a look at safety. In my opinion, the secondary has jumped to the front of the list of the most interesting position battles to watch during training camp. In 2012, Denver kept 10 defensive backs on the opening-day roster -- five cornerbacks and five safeties. In Fox's first season, that number was nine, with five corners and four safeties.

Looking at cornerback, the big names are Champ Bailey, Dominique-Rodgers Cromartie, Chris Harris, Tony Carter, third-round pick Kayvon Webster and last year's fourth-rounder, Omar Bolden.

At safety there's last year's starters -- Rahim Moore and Mike Adams -- then recently re-signed David Bruton, Quinton Carter -- who was a starter late in his rookie season but was injured in 2012 -- Duke Ihenacho, who spent last season on the practice squad and now newcomer Jammer.

That's not counting the college free agents and first-year players on the roster -- safety Ross Rasner and cornerbacks Aaron Hester and Mario Butler.

It's a little premature to start whittling that down right now, but needless to say the players that make it out of that competition will give the Broncos arguably the best secondary in the league -- or at least the deepest.

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