ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Former Denver head coach Mike Shanahan was back at Broncos practice on Saturday, and current Head Coach Vic Fangio made it clear Shanahan is always welcome back at UCHealth Training Center.
Well, almost always.
“He’s welcome to come over here any time unless we’re playing the Niners in a real game,” Fangio said with a smile.
For this weekend’s joint practices between the 49ers — coached by Shanahan’s son, Kyle — and the Broncos, Shanahan’s presence was welcomed.
“Mike has always been a big part of this organization — always will be — and it's nice to have him come back out,” President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway said Saturday. “In my mind [the door] was never really closed, but it's nice to get the communication back. I've played some golf with Mike too and told him that he was more than welcome to come out here anytime. It's always good to see him out here because I enjoy talking football with him. As all you know, he is very knowledgeable in the game. I'm glad that he is able to come back and know that this is home for him.”
Shanahan last visited a Broncos practice in July. That visit was the first time he’d watched Broncos practice since he last coached the team in 2008. He added both of this weekend’s practices to his total for the summer.
“I’ll be honest with you, it’s great to be back, to get a chance to be at this facility,” Shanahan said. “I haven’t been here in 10 years. To see all the changes and a lot of people you were here before working with — it’s great to see and be a part of.”
Though Shanahan joked that he doesn’t miss coaching training camp, he said he does miss the overall experience. He last coached in 2013, when he led the Washington Redskins.
With the Broncos, where he served as head coach from 1995-2008, he won 138 regular-season games and a pair of Super Bowl titles.
It’s those years that led Shanahan to return to practice and visit with some of his old peers.
“John has invited me back a number of times over the last couple years and then Vic, I know him really well, and a number of the coaches,” Shanahan said. “With [Broncos Offensive Coordinator Rich] Scangarello and a number of other people you know quite well, I thought it was time to get back here and just enjoy the years that we’ve had here and be a part of it again.”
Those credentials have stirred some media support for his inclusion in both the Broncos’ Ring of Fame and Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Shanahan said he hasn’t thought about possible induction into either of the elite groups, but he’s honored to be in the conversation.
“I never really think about things that you can’t control,” Shanahan said. “When people just mention you about those things, you go, ‘Wait a minute. Ring of Fame? Hall of Fame?’ You just say, ‘What a great honor to be talked about.’”
Whether he attains those accolades remains to be seen. Those are conversations and decisions for a later date.
On Saturday, it seemed just being back at practice was more than enough.