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Learning from failure: How Dalton Risner is embracing the tough lessons early in training camp

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Practice didn't start the way second-round pick Dalton Risner would've hoped.

On the first play of team-period drills on Saturday, the rookie offensive lineman got bull-rushed by a defensive lineman into the backfield — and right into Joe Flacco.

"When you get bull-rushed like that," Risner said after practice, "it teaches you to not [expose] your chest and keep your hands tight and not to let that happen again."

Risner kept his hands tight and his chest guarded for the rest of practice, and he was able to make it the rest of Saturday's practice without a similar incident.

And that recovery is how the Kansas State product will choose to remember Saturday's practice.

"I'm learning — and I'm learning by failing," said Risner after the Broncos' first practice in full pads. "I'm not failing on every play, but I'm learning by failing, so it's going to be good. Just got to keep going."

Risner, who has worked at left guard with the first-team offensive line since he was drafted in April, knows some failure is inevitable against the Broncos' defense.

"I get a chance to go against Von or Chubb or Adam Gotsis or Derek Wolfe — those guys, I'm going to go out on game day and I'm going to feel pretty ready to go play anyone else, because I'm going against some of the best in the country," Risner said. "I don't get sick of going against them. Am I excited when I see Derek Wolfe come at me? No, I'm not excited. But going against guys like that get me a lot better. And me and Adam Gotsis go at it 95 percent of the time, and he gets me better every single time. So I'm grateful for him."

Risner also isn't above learning from the men he plays alongside on the offensive line.

"I just think it's really important to realize that I have no experience in the NFL," Risner said. "Ron Leary has about eight years [experience]. Ja'Wuan James is one of the highest-paid right tackles in the NFL. Connor McGovern has been in here for four years. Garett was a first-round pick two years ago. I'm surrounded by a lot of guys that have played in the NFL for a while, and I might as well soak as much of that up as I can.

"I think the great offensive linemen are the ones that can always get better and realize they can always get better."


Head Coach Vic Fangio hosted several visitors at practice on Saturday.

Former two-time Super Bowl winning head coach Mike Shanahan visited Broncos practice for the first time in a decade, and Fangio also welcomed the Atlanta Hawks' coaching staff.

"I was glad to have Mike here," Fangio said. "I invited him out [and] wanted him to come. I invited him for the spring work and the schedules never matched up, but I was glad he was here. I think it's good he was here. Mike's got a big part in the rich history of this franchise. He's welcome to come here anytime he wants."

Fangio said he's known Shanahan for a long time "as competitors," but that the two have just gotten to know each other within the last five to eight years.

Fangio's Hawks connection first started when he befriended 76ers head coach Brett Brown. Through Brown, Fangio met then-76ers assistant and current Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce.

Fangio said Pierce previously visited him at training camp in Chicago, but Pierce brought his staff to Denver on Saturday.

"Him and his staff happened to be in Colorado on a two-day junket here and he called and wanted to come down and watch us practice," Fangio said. "He's going to sit and visit with us a little bit."


Fangio was asked Saturday about both Emmanuel Sanders and Courtland Sutton talking to rookie tight end Noah Fant about finishing plays — and the Broncos' head coach again referenced how practice habits translate to games.

"I didn't particularly see it, but I like it," Fangio said. "Peer pressure is better than coaching pressure. … Like I tell the players, if you notice here, most of the drills, coaches are off to the side. I don't want them screaming and hollering instructions to the players. In the game, they're out there on their own. We can't help them in the game, so don't be helping them in practice. Your leaders have to come from those 11 guys that are on the field for you at any given time. They've got to work through it. So I like that."

It's just one more thing to add to a growing list of Fangio practice tendencies — including wearing game jerseys and not playing music — that are designed to help the team when it matters most.


Quarterback Joe Flacco tossed three interceptions during Saturday's practice, and Kevin Hogan added another. Safety Justin Simmons intercepted both Flacco and Hogan, while linebacker Josey Jewell — after the ball was batted at the line of scrimmage — and safety Will Parks also snagged Flacco passes.

Asked whether he was OK with certain interceptions in practice if the quarterback's read and decision-making process are correct, Fangio was direct.

"Well, every interception has a story behind it," Fangio said. "But no, not OK with it. You don't want to turn the ball over. Turnovers make it harder to win the game. Now I don't know exactly what happened on each and every one. I'll go in and look at it."


In previous years, Broncos coaches held afternoon walkthroughs that were open to the media. That's not the case under Fangio, but he said those walkthroughs still happen — at least on occasion.

"It's up to the coaches," Fangio said. "It's up to the defensive coaches, it's up to the offensive coaches and then special teams gets a half hour [of] availability. If they don't do the walkthrough, they're still in meetings."

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