ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As Vic Fangio prepares to begin his first training camp as an NFL head coach, he’s already finished one of the more important aspects of the entire process.
With 53 days from the start of training camp until the Broncos’ regular-season opener against the Raiders on “Monday Night Football,” how Fangio manages his team could be a determining factor in how successful the team will be this season.
And while Fangio and the Broncos will host 19 open practices during training camp — the most of any NFL team — the new head coach has made some tweaks to timing.
The Broncos will hold five afternoon practices that are open to the public, including four at UCHealth Training Center and one at Broncos Stadium at Mile High.
Those afternoon practices all come after the players have a day off, and Fangio said Wednesday he wants to get the team back in the meeting room before taking the field.
“Well, the rain dictates here that you practice in the morning,” Fangio said. “And we are going to roll the dice on a couple of those afternoon practices, because those are all happening after the players have a day off, and after a day off, I’d like to get them back in the building, get meeting with them again, get them rolling before we get back out on the field. We’ll just cross our fingers and hope it doesn’t rain. If it rains, we’ve got a beautiful indoor facility we’ll go into.”
Fangio acknowledged he may tweak the schedule later in training camp if his team appears tired. The Broncos have five extra practices because of their participation in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game on Aug 1.
“First off, I keep hearing [about] these extra practices and there’s this picture out there that we’ve got two weeks [extra],” Fangio said. “It’s five extra practices, OK? Just so we know.
“But it’s good. I’m glad we have it. I think it’s a great opportunity for us to have five extra practices. We need it. We’re a new staff, new team, lot of new things going on. [It] gives us an extra game to play young players in a game, helps our evaluation. I see no negatives to it myself. Maybe down the road, if I think maybe we’re a little tired or something because we’ve had the extra practices, maybe we’ll have an extra day off here or there. I think it’s totally a big benefit. No negative.”
During those practices, Fangio will look for his team “get calloused to playing football” and build up to playing a full game. Fangio said training camp will focus on assignments, technique, endurance and situation football.
All of that, he hopes, will help the Broncos build a “winning identity.”
“That’s what we’re here for,” Fangio said. “We’ve got to win games. I’d like for it to be a team that obviously plays hard; plays smart; plays intelligent; plays good in crunch time, in the critical times of the game; knows how to play in situational football. Those are some of the things.”
SANDERS, LINDSAY TO PRACTICE IMMEDIATELY
Neither Phillip Lindsay (wrist) nor Emmanuel Sanders (Achilles) will start training camp on the physically-unable-to-perform list.
Fangio said Lindsay is “ready to go,” and that the team will “ease him in” to team drills.
President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway said Sanders will also avoid the PUP designation.
“Emmanuel looks good,” Elway said. “He’s not going to go on PUP. He’ll start practicing from Day 1. Obviously we’re going to work him in slowly and so we’re excited about seeing where Emmanuel is. But he’s had a great offseason. He’s handled everything really well, so we’ll break him in slowly.”
TIME TO STEP UP
As Sanders works his way back to full strength, the Broncos will depend upon a young receiving corps that includes second-year players Courtland Sutton, DaeSean Hamilton and Tim Patrick.
“I think the leap of faith came with the fact that we thought [Sanders] was going to come back, but if he didn’t, with the young ones that we did have, we felt we were in a good situation there,” Elway said. “It was kind of a wait and see.”
Regardless of Sanders’ status, the Broncos will likely need Sutton, Hamilton and Patrick to make big strides in 2019 for the team to find success. The same goes for several other second-year players, namely the members of the Broncos’ 2018 rookie class.
Bradley Chubb, Isaac Yiadom, Royce Freeman, Josey Jewell and Phillip Lindsay all saw extensive playing time last season and now face expectations to take another step forward.
“They all had great years, really, for their first years,” Elway said. “You always hope they make that big step in their second year. Having been through the process for them, understanding what the NFL is all about, they get a good feel for it. I think they’re much further ahead mentally coming into their second season and especially even though we have a new offense, it’s similar to the one we had last year, so we expect them to take steps, so hopefully they do. Especially at the running back position, because we’ve got a lot of youth there.”
Offensive Coordinator Rich Scangarello will call games from the coaches’ box, Fangio said Wednesday. The Broncos’ head coach, though, will be on the field during games. That’s unusual for the coach, as he said he has only spent five or six seasons total on the sideline during his 33-year NFL career.
“That will be a big adjustment for me,” Fangio said. “I liked being in the box. I think it gives you a great view of the game. … I was on the sidelines as a position coach in New Orleans about four or five years, and then I was on the sidelines once as a coordinator one year. It will be a big adjustment, but I don’t think it will take long to get comfortable down there.”
UPDATING DREW LOCK’S STATUS
As of Wednesday at 2:30 p.m., second-round pick Drew Lock remained the team’s only 2019 draft pick to not sign his rookie contract. Asked about Lock’s status on Wednesday, Elway said he wouldn’t guess at whether Lock would sign his contract in time to practice on Thursday morning with the rest of the team.
“We’ll see,” Elway said. “I’m not going to make a prediction one way or the other, but we’re hoping that he’s going to be here.
“Nothing surprises me anymore. We’ll see what happens.”
UPDATE [3:51 p.m.]: According to several media reports, Lock agreed to terms on his rookie contract on Wednesday afternoon.