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Mason's Mailbag: Last call before training camp

As always, you can tweet questions to me with the hashtag #AskMase, use the submission form or scroll to the bottom of this page.

It depends entirely on the player and his situation. If he's injured, his activity will depend on where he stands in his recovery and the answers to two questions: 1) Can he work out? 2) Is it easier for him to work out during practice rather than at another time, when the weight room and conditioning facilities are used by other players?

For the healthy players who get some time off, there are two possibilities. One is having them work out while their teammates practice. That's how Kubiak handled minicamp, when a few handfuls of key veterans left the field after the individual periods, ceding team and seven-on-seven repetitions to the young players who needed the extra work.

But when players would get "veteran days" to rest during training camps when Kubiak was on the Broncos' staff from 1995-2005, they would often stand on the sideline, taking mental repetitions. That sight of healthy key veterans in shorts and workout t-shirts watching from sideline was also a common one at Ravens camp, and the infusion of some Ravens philosophies regarding practice and on-field player development has been one of the defining storylines of the offseason. So I expect when veterans have the day off, you'll see them watching and helping their younger teammates.


The NBA has the Summer League for rookies and for some other exceptions. What are your thoughts on a similar situation for the NFL? -- Jordan Brantley**

The problem is the basic nature of football: it is a higher-attrition, collision sport. When the World League/NFL Europe/NFL Europa existed (1991-92, 1995-2007), teams had the opportunity to allocate players from 1995 onward. The league was fertile ground for player development in the 1990s and early 2000s, but in its final years faded in importance, because many teams didn't want to risk prized young players to injuries, nor did they want them away from team headquarters for a few months, causing them to miss offseason work.

So how do you work around this? Do you create a league focused on the development of the passing game -- perhaps with seven-on-seven or eight-on-eight football with fewer linemen and minimal contact? That would be entertaining and perhaps would allow for a 32-team league, similar to the NBA Summer League. It would also help in developing quarterbacks, wide receivers, pass-catching tight ends, defensive backs and coverage linebackers, but wouldn't do much for others.

Or do you try to mimic the European model, with, say, eight teams each receiving players from four NFL clubs, but based in the United States (and perhaps in one region of the country) to conserve travel and logistical expenses? That would sound good in theory, but would again lead to the reluctance to allocate players, which defeats the point of it.

One way or another, a developmental league is missed. Just look at the Broncos for evidence; players like Brock Osweiler, Ben Garland and many others would have seen their development aided by extra work. There would be less pressure to select players at premium positions in the draft, knowing that you had the potential to develop a late-round or undrafted quarterback in a minor league (examples: Kurt Warner, Brad Johnson and Jake Delhomme, all of whom became effective long-term starters and led their teams to the Super Bowl).


Is there a reason that kickoff and punt returners are usually two different players? It would be nice to save a roster spot for player depth.**
-- Mart White

Different jobs, different skill sets.

Typically, if you can return punts, you can handle kickoffs to at least some degree of effectiveness. Punt returning is the more rigorous of the two disciplines because of the nature of the work; you're often fielding the football in heavy traffic and you don't have a running start before opposing players are in position to stop you. There's more emphasis on ball security in punt returning; if you drop a kickoff, you often have a second or two to retrieve the football before opponents arrive. That cushion does not exist on punt returns; bobble it -- or have it strike off someone's leg, as happened at New England in 2013 -- and disaster often follows.

Still, your ideal situation involves having one player for both roles -- and if he can contribute on offense or defense, it's even better. That's why incumbent kickoff returner Omar Bolden spent part of OTAs working on punt returns; he knows that becoming a complete returner enhances his value. Trindon Holliday could handle both, but was a minimal offensive factory and struggled with ball security, which is why he didn't return in 2014. Solomon Patton could be an intriguing option on punts and kickoffs, but what could his role be on offense? So if you can't find one player for both roles, you want to find two who are going to be on the 46-man active roster anyway (and this is key -- being on the game-day 46 is a more important distinction than the 53-man roster) whether as a backup receiver, an extra cornerback, whatever.

Would the Broncos ever consider signing Colt McCoy? He's on a one-year deal with Washington. Would love to see him in Denver I'm a Broncos fan from Texas. -- Ryon Williams

That's not a 2015 question. He's with Washington; I expect he'll stay there for the season unless they trade him. It's worth asking once free agency begins next year, but not until then. Besides, a quarterback with a 78.6 career rating and a 25-to-23 touchdown-to-interception ratio isn't exactly a game-changer. There's a lot of guys like him.

If Peyton Manning gets back in his usual rhythm and the rebuilt offensive line can keep him upright --- two items that are related -- he will be just fine. Manning's continued success as the starting quarterback remains the single most important aspect of the team being a Super Bowl contender.

The politically correct answer would involve me telling you it's the first game on the schedule, or perhaps the renewal of the Brady-Manning series on Thanksgiving weekend.

But by far the game that most excites me is the Week 8 game against the Green Bay Packers. It's on Sunday Night Football, it will see Pat Bowlen inducted into the Ring of Fame, it will help commemorate the Broncos' first world championship, and it's the first game in which Manning and Aaron Rodgers have been on opposite sidelines since 2008.

Not really. If anything, it adds some square inchage. ("Square footage" seems a tad excessive.) I can use one tablet to get the NFL Network feed, another for an MLB game (or soccer or college basketball, depending on what's in season), throw a minor-league baseball game on the iPhone and then use part of the big monitor for watching the All-22 footage of a past Broncos game I'm referencing for a story. Strangely enough, none of this is distracting to me. I can have three televisions, all with sound, and still work. It's nearby conversation that I find distracting -- perhaps because you can't use a "mute" button on people.

My wife thinks I should be, but I'm not. I like having items in plain sight -- including wires -- and knowing where they are.

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The analysis, opinion and speculation in this story represents that of the author, gathered through research and reporting, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Denver Broncos organization. //

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