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'It's hard to see him go': Broncos reflect on Demaryius Thomas' departure

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —On Demaryius Thomas' final night as a Denver Bronco, Emmanuel Sanders joined him at his home to watch some football.

The pair — known as Thunder and Lightning on the field — took in the game between the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots.

At that point, before news broke Tuesday that Thomas was headed to Houston, Sanders and Thomas thought he could be traded to New England in the morning. 

They talked through that scenario briefly, but Thomas didn't have much to say.

"He didn't really say much," Sanders said Wednesday. "His vibe was just, 'I don't really want to leave, but I'm trying to see the [positives] of it.' I felt for him. You want to talk about a guy that is a longtime Bronco, he wanted to stay here and wanted to retire a Bronco. He didn't want to go. At the end of the day, they traded him and he had to go. That's the nature of the business."

Nearly every Bronco that addressed the trade that sent Thomas to Houston echoed the same sentiment: that Tuesday's move was part of the business.

That didn't make it any easier on the locker room, particularly for players like Sanders, who has grown close to Thomas during their five seasons together.

"It's weird," Sanders said. "It's been a rough 24-48 hours for me. I've got mad love for him, so it's hard to see him go. It was even tougher to go out to practice. It was tough to go into work in the morning because he was right next to me, his locker was right next to me. We used to have small conversations and good conversations. It's tough to see him leave, but at the same time I have a job to do. I have to lead these guys, and that's what I'm going to do."

Quarterback Case Keenum also realizes the task the Broncos have at hand this weekend, but he took a few moments to be ready for the inevitable questions he got Wednesday about Thomas.

It was a small gesture, but Keenum wanted to make sure he expressed his thoughts in a way that would properly honor Thomas' time with the Broncos.

"That's a good friend of mine," Keenum said. "I've really enjoyed working with him, getting to know him this past year. I thought about this, I thought about what I would say to you guys whenever you asked. But man, he's going to be one of those guys I'm going to tell my kids, and maybe, hopefully my grandkids that I got to play with that guy. I got to throw the football to that guy. Special, special player, special person, and I wish him the best."

You couldn't find a player in the Broncos' locker room who would wish anything else for Thomas as he continues his career in Houston — with one small caveat.

Chris Harris Jr. doesn't want to be on the wrong end of a big-time revenge game.

"I don't expect D.T. to come out there and know their whole offense that fast," Harris said. "Just come out there, probably run some basic routes. Just try to give them the ball, something easy just to get him going. I mean, that's what I can see. But it's going to be fun, it's going to be a competition. You know D.T. is going to want to come up here and prove us wrong why we traded him and make big plays. So, we've got to stop that."

And while Harris is focused on slowing Thomas and DeAndre Hopkins and Co., Sanders made sure to put a stop to any overly dramatic questions about Thomas.

"Me and D.T. have so many memories," Sanders said. "I'm not going to sit here and talk about like he just died. It's all good. That's still my brother. I'm still going to talk to him, I'm still going to FaceTime him like I always do.

"We're just playing on different teams now."

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