ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- After spending most of the offseason as a free agent, linebacker Keith Brooking was just getting himself back into football shape when he injured his hamstring on August 13.
Two weeks later, Brooking was in shells and shorts on Tuesday, participating fully in practice with the Broncos. The 14-year veteran said it's encouraging to get back on the field, but the time missed was when he could have been carving his role in the defense.
"It's disappointing," Brooking said. "(But) I feel great now. It is what it is. There's no sense in crying over spilt milk. You just pick up, keep moving forward."
Brooking called it "frustrating" that the coaches haven't been able to get a real taste of what he can do. He was injured on his second day in action and returns for two non-padded practices and one preseason game – which he isn't sure if he'll play in – before the coaches finalize the roster on Friday.
But Brooking, a five-time Pro Bowler, still has a couple things going for him. For one, he's entering his 15th year in the league and is a proven performer on Sundays. Secondly, he grasps the defense. After Tuesday's practice he said he felt "extremely comfortable with the defense and (his) assignments."
And even though the soon-to-be 37-year old admits to being a bit removed from his Pro Bowl days in Atlanta, he brings a veteran presence not just to the field, but to the sidelines and locker room as well.
"(When I'm injured), I'm getting mental reps and being out here for the other guys," Brooking said. "You're not out there participating on the field, but you are mentally as you're standing on the sideline."
Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio said all of that is taken into consideration.
"Everything counts," Del Rio said. "Meetings, walkthroughs and everything. Obviously, it's been limited in terms of live exposure. We got some work with him again today in practice and we'll get some more tomorrow and then we'll see how the game goes and whether he plays or not."
BOLDEN LOOKS FOR OPPORTUNITYIn order to secure a role in the regular season, cornerback Omar Bolden has used the offseason to diversify himself.
He has lined up as a returner in practice, which is something that was part of his gameday responsibilities in college. In Sunday's preseason game against San Francisco, Bolden lined up as a kick returner for the first time since 2010.
"It's very important," Bolden said of playing special teams. "I won't be able to make an immediate impact at the corner spot. So I'm looking at anywhere I can get on the field to help this team win."
Bolden believes he does have a chance see time at the nickel corner. But just like the return game, playing the nickel takes some time to fully grasp.
"I was actually getting more looks at the nickel spot than I have at corner," Bolden said. "I have an opportunity to compete for a job there. There, I'm just starting to understand concepts and things like that. You're basically like a linebacker that has to cover. It's a little different for me, but I'm learning and I'm getting better.
The former Sun Devil is looking forward to continue to prove himself on Thursday night, less than 30 miles from where he played his college ball for Arizona State.
"I'm sure I'll get an opportunity, if not multiple opportunities, this week in Arizona," Bolden said.
BREWER SEIZES OPPORTUNITYLong snappers don't need attention. When they're doing their job, it's rare to get noticed. When they don't do their job, everyone notices.
For that reason, rookie Aaron Brewer – the lone longsnapper on the team following Lonie Paxton's release – hopes his experience speaking to media after Tuesday's practice was both a first and last for him.
"That's exactly it," Brewer said. "I hope I never have to do this again."
Fox said the team "felt great about (Brewer's) upside and his performance in the preseason games," but the rookie admitted that he didn't fully expect this outcome.
"I was pretty surprised," Brewer said. "But you never know, especially with our position. (Paxton) was in the league for 12 years so you never know when you're going to get the opportunity. Now I have it, and I'll make the most out of it."