ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --The practice field at Dove Valley was not vacant on Thanksgiving Day, as the Broncos held a regular practice on Thursday.
On Wednesday, quarterback Peyton Manning discussed the importance of continuing the football routine -- even on holidays -- but also balancing it out with personal time after practice.
"It's a special day," Manning said. "I know a lot of players have a lot to be thankful for. We're going to practice in the morning and I think it's important that a good football team can still have a good practice on a holiday situation like that but still realizes what a special day it is to be with your family and friends and thankful for our many blessings."
Manning added that he is "usually a pretty good eater on Thanksgiving," and fellow captain Champ Bailey agreed.
Asked if he would be packing in the carbs during his Thanksgiving day meal, Bailey replied, "Every year. That's what it's all about."
Many players continued the Thanksgiving theme by discussing which player, or players, they are most thankful to have. Below is a list of some of the answers.
Defensive tackle Justin Bannan
"Shoot, I have to say No. 18. He's helped us out a bunch. From a defensive perspective, having an offense go up and down the field, from my perspective, is a great thing. It helps you get the rest you need in between series and it's just been really good for us."
Tight end Jacob Tamme
"I'm thankful for (tackles) Orlando Franklin and Ryan Clady - the guys that I get to line up beside on the offensive line. Those are my dudes."
Safety Mike Adams
"I'm thankful for Von Miller. Him and Doom (defensive end Elvis Dumervil), they definitely make it easy for us on the back end. They get after the quarterback pretty good and they have to get it out of their hands."
TIGHT ENDS EARNING TRUST
In the fourth quarter of Sunday's win against San Diego, the Broncos faced a third-and-18 near midfield. Quarterback Peyton Manning dropped back and threw a pass deep over the middle to tight end Jacob Tamme.
Tamme elevated and made the grab as he was sandwiched by a pair of Chargers defenders before he reached the ground. The tight end held on to the ball through the hit for a 30-yard completion and a first down, leading to a crucial field goal late in the game.
It was one example of the pivotal role Tamme and fellow tight end Joel Dreessen have played in the offense.
"Those guys are a big part of the offense," Manning said. "In certain progressions, those guys are the first read. The seam route that Tamme caught the other day on that third-and-long, he's the first read. A lot of times in the flat route, those guys are the first read and so there are a lot of the same plays that can be called to (wideout Brandon) Stokley in the slot or to them. It's a credit to them because they can run some of those same type of option routes with good speed and good hands."
Of the nine catches Tamme has made on third down, seven have moved the chains - tied for the best third-down conversion percentage of any player on the team.
As for Dreessen, he has been targeted five times in the red zone. Four of them have been caught, and three for touchdowns.
The duo has been so reliable, Manning and Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy have looked to find ways to take advantage of favorable matchups with the tight ends.
"You've seen us split Tamme out wide a couple of times," Manning said. "A team will put a safety out there one-on-one. Those are things Mike tries to do to move those guys around. He does a good job of that. Those guys have made a lot of plays for us this year."
Manning added that he uses the pair of tight ends just like slot receivers from a three-point stance, because they can run the same routes with good speed and greater size. On the year, the pair has combined for 562 receiving yards and five touchdowns on 61 catches, which ramks sixth among tight end duos in the league this season.
BALL'S BIG BLOCK
A blitzing Demorrio Williams flew off the right side, untouched by an offensive lineman. Manning, looking the opposite direction, was a sitting duck.
Without hesitation, running back Lance Ball slid from the other side of the quarterback to pick up the blitzing defender, who already had a full head of steam. Ball sealed off Williams and provided time and room to step up in the pocket and find wideout over the middle of the field, who took it the rest of the way for a touchdown.
"That was a huge block on that play to give me some extra time to get the ball to Decker and then Decker did a good job of getting in the end zone," Manning recalled. "That's part of being a running back is pass protecting. That block right there is what Lance is capable of. That's what we expect him to do every single time."
Ball said that picking up blitzes is a part of being a running back that is "definitely a priority." That was evident when his instincts took him to the perfect place at the perfect time on the third-quarter touchdown.
"The guy to my side didn't come so I had to scrape back and pick up the end man on the line," he said. "We all have jobs that we have to do. That was one of them."
After spending 2008 in Indianapolis with Manning, Ball mentioned one key aspect of their relationship that the two established as Colts that has been important since Manning became a Bronco.
"Just the trust factor, just trusting each other that we're going to be at that point, be at the right position when our number is called," he said.