ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- For defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, excitement over the start of training camp is because of what comes next.
"I look forward to Day 1, because when Day 1 comes, you know the end is coming," he said, to a cackle of chuckles from the media that surrounded him. "The quicker Day 1 gets here, the quicker the end gets here."
Knighton is a master of dry wit, and is often candid to a fault. But his sentiment reveals training camp's purpose: to build a team for when results matter. The daily grind under the sun is the price to be paid. And without the fans around for this year's practices at Dove Valley, the energy to push through as the practices mount will have to come from within.
"We'll miss them, but we have to deal with it," said Head Coach John Fox.
That's what professionals do: they re-focus and get the job done -- even if they're looking ahead to the end, and when the hitting counts for real. There's plenty of tasks in the next few weeks, as was evident after a first day that had the ups and downs the start of camp always brings.
- When I was part of the handful of media talking to new wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, I wanted to point out the positive part of his day: a deep catch on a go route from Peyton Manning during the one-on-one period. Sanders beat cornerback Tony Carter downfield and made a perfect catch of a well-timed throw that arrived at his back shoulder. It looked as though they'd been working on that route for years.
But Sanders only saw the flaws -- particularly a drop near the sideline during a team period later in practice.
"My grandma could have caught that pass," Sanders said. "Conditioning kind of got me, but no excuses, I should have caught it. So if I drop a pass, I don't care what it is: I'm below an 'F.'"
That Sanders noted "conditioning" was crucial; he acknowledged that he is still adjusting to the altitude.
"This stuff is real, man. I was tired and today I felt like my heart was going to explode. I worked my butt off. I trained down in Texas and you can't prepare for this. You've just got to go out there every day and work it and eventually you're going to get in shape."
Even though Sanders is rough on himself, it's clear from OTAs and Thursday that he and Manning are well on their way to having the chemistry they need.
- Wide receiver Cody Latimer's physical gifts were obvious from the moment he began working against fellow rookie Bradley Roby in one-on-one drills. Roby is tenacious, but on the first pass of the period, Latimer used his hands to fight off Roby, who came close to holding the receiver, to make the grab from Brock Osweiler. He later caught a long touchdown pass in the team period, working past Tony Carter and Duke Ihenacho.
Another impressive example of Latimer's day came on a short pass near the right sideline from Osweiler during a seven-on-seven period. With Tony Carter closing and making contact, Latimer's first task was to secure the ball; he did this cleanly and avoided the big mistake.
But Latimer saw shortcomings, and that reflected in his self-assessment.
"Maybe like a C-minus. I made minor mistakes," he said. "That happens, but we've got to clear them up and make sure it's very minimum mistakes. I'm trying to get my grade to a B (or) an A."
Latimer was listed as one of the injured players by Fox because of a left foot problem -- the same foot on which he had surgery earlier this year. He said he had "no pain," and appeared unaffected during practice.
- DeMarcus Ware picked up where he left off at the end of organized team activities, mixing explosive speed with patience to wait for opportunities to come before striking like a cobra. He blew up one potential Peyton Manning pass from the back side with what would have been a thunderous sack had it been the regular season; instead, he settled for a pressure that led to an incompletion.
He was not the only Bronco to mount pressure. With Von Miller being eased back into work, Brandon Marshall and Lerentee McCray had opportunities to work in his place, and both were able to force quick throws under duress via pressure up the middle.
- With the practice squad not an option, five-year veteran cornerback Jerome Murphy needs to make a big impression to stick on the Broncos in any capacity. The most experienced of the Broncos' core of cornerbacks on the second and third teams, Murphy was also the most physical, aggressive cornerback at the line of scrimmage in one-on-one drills, using his 6-foot, 200-pound frame to its maximum. After getting beat the first time by Nathan Palmer, he got the better of other matchups, and kept his contact legal, not drawing a flag.
I also liked the awareness that undrafted rookie Louis Young showed. He was a part of two takeaways, including an interception of a Brock Osweiler pass that skipped through Jacob Tamme's hands. Omar Bolden also had a strong day in coverage, bouncing back from an early penalty called on him for holding Andre Caldwell during the one-on-one period.
Cornerback Kayvon Webster also rebounded well from being beaten during one-on-ones. With Chris Harris Jr. still recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Webster has seen extensive work against the Broncos' top receivers the last three months. His reactions in coverage are quicker, and he uses his size more effectively.
- It just wasn't the same without the fans. But there was also no way that they could have been safely accommodated. Just a few feet from the south end zone of the east field where the Broncos practiced, workers were busy with hammers and power screwdrivers, securing the tower that will allow the Broncos' team videographers to shoot practices without having to stand in the cherry pickers that have been a staple since time immemorial. Sod was being laid down on the hillside that next year will hold up to 5,000 fans. Renovations on the main building are not yet finished. Parking lots are under various stages of construction.
Sunday's atmosphere at Sports Authority Field at Mile High will be electric. Until then, the Broncos will try to enjoy the silence, difficult as it is.