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Mason's Mailbag: Demaryius Thomas, NFL punishment in a historical context, and more

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

There were quite a few questions about Demaryius Thomas' status over the weekend, so let's start with some of them:

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Why has a deal with DT not been made yet?**
-- Drew Buckmaster

Why have there been no updates on contract talks with Demaryius Thomas? Why can't they just work out a deal already? The Broncos clearly need Thomas for next year.
-- Alex Roederer

What is the latest news on DT? Are they any closer to a contract deal?
-- Brian Porter

There is no news; as Executive Vice President/General Manager John Elway noted last Tuesday, there is "no update."

"We want Demaryius back, so we're going to do everything to make that happen," he added, maintaining the stance he has held throughout the offseason.

The 12-month cycle of NFL news these days feeds demand for status reports on situations like this. But in general, when there are leaks from negotiations, they are rarely positive signs.

The key date remains July 15: the deadline to reach a long-term deal. If no contract can be reached by then, Thomas will play under the terms of the one-year tender. The last two Broncos to receive the franchise tag signed long-term deals in July: Matt Prater (2012) and Ryan Clady (2013).

Deadlines like the one looming in mid-July have a way of forcing movement in one direction or the other. While it's not ideal that Thomas remains unsigned and not present for offseason sessions, it's not the end of the world, either. Further, it helps the progress of Cody Latimer, who gets more repetitions with Peyton Manning.

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Do you know when the Broncos training camp will be this year? Specifically the part that's open to the public. I have been looking for a while and have not been able to find any info on it.**
-- Ramiro Lugo

It's hard to find that information because it doesn't yet exist! Precise dates and times for practices are typically not finalized until late June or early July. Of the last five training camps open to the public, four saw their dates announced between June 24 and July 9 (the exception, 2011, didn't have dates announced until July 25 because of the offseason lockout).

However, because the date of the Broncos' preseason-opening game with the Seattle Seahawks has been set -- Friday, Aug. 14 -- you can expect training camp to begin Friday, July 31. Teams cannot begin camp earlier than two weeks before their first preseason game.

Why do you change your title every year? I have always enjoyed your contributions to us Broncos fans, even those of us here in the middle of Seahawk territory
-- Patrick Plumb; Tonasket, Wash.

Thanks for the kind words. As for the title, it just reflects the evolution of my role, which is never set in concrete; it's like a river, always changing and flowing. For all I know, the title might be something different in the future.

Paul Horning got a one-year suspension for betting on his team to win, so why did Tom Brady only get four games for cheating repeatedly?
-- Mart White

Because taking money from fixers and gambling directly on results was -- and is -- considered the greatest threat to the legitimacy of a sport.

The accusations against Tom Brady matter. But they only threaten the perception of the quarterback himself and the Patriots. Gambling -- even betting on your own side, as Hornung did -- shakes the perception of the entire NFL. That's why Pete Rose's ban from baseball is at 26 years and counting; even though he bet on his team, that can have an impact -- for example, maybe he pulls his starting pitcher after six innings, one run allowed and 80 pitches and rides his bullpen, whose effectiveness declines as the season winds into August and September because of overuse.

With Hornung in particular, it's important to consider the culture of sports in 1963. College basketball was rocked by a series of point-shaving scandals from the early 1950s through the early 1960s -- and others happened intermittently in the decades that followed. The NFL, anxious to avoid anything similar, would cut even a hint of gambling-related impropriety off at the pass. The suspensions of Hornung and the late Alex Karras in 1963 were not just for gambling, but for connections with "undesirable" people -- i.e. people connected with a criminal element that often tried to fix sporting events. Joe Namath even chose to retire in 1969 rather than face suspension over gamblers and mobsters frequenting a bar he co-owned (Bachelors III). Eventually, Namath divested himself of his investment and returned to football in time for that season.

The Tim Donaghy scandal in the NBA offers an example of why professional sports organzations remain ever-vigilant over outside influences having an impact on the results. The credibility of competition is and will remain of the highest priority for the NFL and the other major sports organizations, because the NFL's core business is the on-field product itself and the legitimacy of it.

When drafting any position, would you pick a guy who is super athletic or someone who has perfect technique?
-- Jordan Brantley

Ideally, both. But there's not a one-size-fits-all answer to your question.

Perfect technique can make up for having a 40 time that is .10-.20 shorter or being a split-second slower in reaction. But there's other factors to consider. If you have the "super-athletic" player who needs work on technique, what is the player's capacity to learn? Is he teachable? Are the missing aspects coachable? And whether you're talking about a player who is better in technique or athleticism, you want to ascertain what that player's feel for the game is, and how quickly he adapts to changes around him. For instance, consider quarterbacks: you can have a guy with a strong arm and perfect throwing technique, but if he has no feel for the pass rush, he won't succeed.

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Can the choices of defensive linemen projected for nose tackle sustain a 16-game pressure of pushing the pocket & plugging the holes on the rush? None of these men have the physicality seen in players like Vince Wilfork or Terrance Knighton.**
-- Tom Gormally

At the same time, Sylvester Williams, Marvin Austin and Darius Kilgo will not be asked to do what Wilfork or Knighton do, because the Wade Phillips 3-4 has different points of emphasis for its nose tackles than other schemes, including the one the Broncos ran last year. A greater burden will be placed on the inside linebackers, so Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall -- or any backups that see time -- must come up big in traffic.

Nose tackle is a question, no doubt, because Williams and Austin have had careers of ups and downs to date, and Kilgo is an unknown quantity at this point.

But there could be answers beyond those three depending on down-and-distance scenarios; as Williams said May 6, "We're all moving around at this point."


Submit a question for the next Mailbag!

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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