ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The team calendar says that training camp ended Friday, but the arrival of the Houston Texans for joint practices next week bellows something different, even though the daily schedule changes to one that resembles the regular season. And as the Broncos approach the on-ramp to the regular season, they continue to work their injured players back to full speed, starting with Von Miller, whose recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament continues apace.
- No firm determination has been made as to Miller's status for Sunday's game at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., but his practice performance offers assurance that he'll be ready to contribute when the games matter.
"I don't know. I'm just following 'Greek' (Head Athletic Trainer Steve Antonopulous). Whatever he wants me to do" said Miller. "Whatever he wants me to do. Practice is different in the game, and I know whenever it's time for me to play, I'll be ready. So I'm not rushing it."
Indeed, practice is different. There, he has looked ready. He opened the team period Friday with a practice "sack" of Peyton Manning in which he worked past tight end Julius Thomas. This followed a Thursday performance that was often dazzling, particularly in one-on-one drills, where his spin move inside of Chris Clark left onlookers awed. Miller had the speed and explosion he displayed in 2012, when he was a first-team All-Pro and set the franchise sack record.
"I mean, I feel like I can play," he said. "I feel good where I'm at. I feel great physically and mentally. I feel I can play.
"It's always more you can do, and I feel like I'm not all the way there yet. But I feel I can play. I feel great physically where I'm at."
- During one goal-to-go series, cornerback Bradley Roby faced Julius Thomas and Demaryius Thomas head-to-head in a span of four plays. A single day in the regular season won't be more rigorous than that.
Roby got the best of Julius Thomas on first-and-goal, using the hand moves he's improved with the aid of Hall of Famer Rod Woodson to deflect a pass that was headed for the tight end's grasp. But after two more plays gained eight yards, Manning found Demaryius Thomas on a fade route to beat Roby on fourth-and-goal.
- Special teams -- specifically, punt returns -- will likely determine whether wide receiver Jordan Norwood has a place on the 53-man roster. But he's listed on the second team, and with Emmanuel Sanders nursing a quadriceps injury, that meant a handful of snaps for Norwood with the first team. During the two-minute drill at the end of practice, Norwood caught a pair of passes from Peyton Manning for 36 yards, moving the offense to the 10-yard-line.
Norwood's experience means the practice squad is not an option. At 27, he's the third-oldest wide receiver on the roster; only Andre Caldwell and Wes Welker are older. Norwood uses this experience to give him an edge his routes are crisp and his timing with all quarterbacks is precise.
"You can tell he is very smart in what the defense is trying to do," said Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase. "He's done a good job using leverage of the defense to get open. He really understands what we're trying to do with our scheme compared to the defensive scheme."
But as much as he does on offense, he needs to perform on punt returns in the next three games to have a realistic shot in a crowded receiving field.
Check out the best photos from the final day of Broncos training camp.
- A mishmash of player notes:
- Quarterback Brock Osweiler did not have his best day, throwing a pair of interceptions. The first was picked off by Tony Carter, who adjusted to a ball for Bennie Fowler that was slightly underthrown; Carter and Fowler tussled for the football, but the cornerback won the duel. The other interception, by Lamin Barrow, was in space in the right flat.
- Linebacker Brandon Marshall had a well-timed blitz up the middle for a "sack" of Manning. "We're expecting Brandon Marshall to come in and do great things for us until Danny (Trevathan) gets back," Miller said.
- Running back Juwan Thompson had another solid day, working with Manning and Osweiler. Thompson shows surprising lightness on his feet on a downfield burst. Although at 225 pounds, he isn't large enough to qualify as a "dancing bear" of the ilk that Jack Del Rio wants for the defensive line, Thompson's fluidity and quickness continues to impress in the backfield.
- The only true difference for the players next week is in the accommodations. For veterans, it means having the option to go home instead of stay at the Ramada Inn. For some, that is a blessing; others want to stay.
"I like my bed at the Ramada. And it was closer, so you don't really do too much in camp anyways, so it was the same for me," said Miller. "My bed at home is actually a little harder than the Ramada bed, so it was cool."
Not everyone agreed.
"We get to get out of the hotel and it's not as long of a day, but we're still preparing in that mindset," said safety T.J. Ward. I'm just glad I get to go home and sleep in my own bed."