ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As Broncos players attended the team's annual Kickoff Luncheon presented by U.S. Bank and Arrow Electronics, the regular season's start seemed closer than ever.
In just 17 days, the event's emcee, Dave Logan, will be back in the radio booth, calling the first moments of the Broncos' season, and the players will be in the spotlight on "Monday Night Football."
"I'm ready to play real football," guard Dalton Risner said after the event. "… This has been a grind of a training camp, man, and we've gotten a lot of great work in. So I'm ready for it whenever. If it came tomorrow, let's rock and roll. I might want two or three days to make sure I got everything right, but I think we're all ready for it. We've done everything, we're prepared. We also have to game plan for these guys, and that's going to start after this last preseason game, get the roster set, a lot of things that have to happen. But, dude, we're ready to play, bro. And Russell [Wilson]'s created that urgency. Russell's had us ready to play for a few weeks now, [Head Coach Nathaniel] Hackett's had us ready to play. I think that's a good sign."
As the starters have rested throughout Denver's preseason slate, players like Risner and Justin Simmons are itching to prepare for Week 1's prime-time battle with the Seahawks. And even though there's an extra week between the final preseason game and the season opener, the countdown is on for when the players put on the pads in Seattle.
"Me, I wish it was coming a little sooner," Simmons said. "That's the competitor in me. … Me personally, I wish Monday night was tomorrow and we were just getting ready to suit up and go play. But like I said, there's still a lot of stuff defensively that we need to work out and get some kinks worked out and ironed out. But I'm excited, it's going to be great."
While there's still game-planning that must be done during the break before the first week, there's also an energy and urgency that the team feels, Simmons said.
"We've still got plenty of time still until Week 1," Simmons said. "There's still a lot of time, a lot of improvement, a lot of things that we've got to go through. But the urgency's at an all-time high for us. It's been mediocre for too long, for too many seasons. I think I know just as well as anyone that's been here the past six years that it's time to start getting back to what Broncos Country is used to seeing — that's winning football and hosting playoff games and being in the playoffs."
CHAMPIONS IN THE COMMUNITY
The Kickoff Luncheon, which has raised more than $1.5 million for Broncos Charities, helps the organization invest in nonprofit organizations throughout the Denver Metro Area and puts a spotlight on the impact the team makes in that area.
"It's awesome," Risner said. "... I think that being here together and showing how important our community work is and being able to show the value that our community department brings to this organization and to be able to have everyone here that's helping sponsor, helping us raise money for Broncos Charities, is awesome. Because everything that we do throughout the year, it costs money. To be able to have people here and help donate to that cause is so extremely important for us as players to show up and show our appreciation for it. I just think it really hones in on the fact of how important it is to make an impact on the community."
Simmons, who spoke to the crowd as a three-time Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year nominee, emphasized how he drew upon the team's previous stars' dedication in the community to guide his efforts. Now, as a star in his own right, Simmons does the same.
"Obviously, guys — I can talk about it in the locker room [with them] or talk about it in my smaller group settings, but if they're watching me do it on the outside looking in and seeing me show up to different things, I think that's when people really buy into it," Simmons said. "Like, man, you can really tell how much it means to the Denver community, how much it means to this nonprofit or this organization. That, to me, is the biggest thing. You never want to force people to be involved in the community. You want it to happen organically or just genuinely. And that's what I learned from guys like I said, like Von [Miller] … and Chris Harris [Jr.] and D.T. [Demaryius Thomas]. Those guys, each and every week, a lot of times they didn't even want media to be around. They just wanted to go do it. That's what I remember and that's just the example I try to be for some of the younger guys."