ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- At the team's first training camp practice on Thursday, 4,372 fans got their first glimpse of the 2012 Denver Broncos.
The crowd, which shattered the previous camp attendance record of 3,103 – set in 2010 – didn't go unnoticed by the team.
"The crowd was great out here," quarterback Peyton Manning said. "A lot of fans and a lot of enthusiasm. I don't think we'd ever have to incorporate fake crowd noise if we wanted to simulate playing on the road. It was a great crowd -- they were enthusiastic. I've always thought that when it's hot out here, the fans can get you through a tough two-a-day practice, so I know the receivers and the linemen appreciate the crowd. I thought it was a lot of fun being out there with them today."
The excitement and mass of the record-breaking crowd had an overwhelmeing effect on every player that spoke to the media after Thursday's practice. But the younger guys on the team were nearly speechless.
"That was probably more fans that I had at my high school games," quarterback Brock Osweiler laughed. "To come out here, day one of practice, and see that many fans — the support, the cheers for every completion — makes it very special to play in this city."
Rookie running back Ronnie Hillman took it a step further.
"I think that was like half of what I had at my college games," he said.
First-year defensive lineman Ben Garland called it "one of the best days of my life" and said that the crowd's presence improved the overall quality of practice.
"You can just feel the energy in the crowd and the energy from Broncos Country," Garland said. "Every single guy was pumped up, moving a little faster, a little more crisp, because of the fans."
After playing all three years of his career with the Broncos, defensive end Robert Ayers embraced the enthusiasm from the crowd, but said he wasn't surprised in the least.
"We've got some great fans out here, some of the best fans," Ayers said. "This is the only team I've played for, but just from talking to other guys that I know on other teams, sometimes it's not the same. The following is great, I know that just from being on Twitter. I kind of expected it. There are a lot of expectations, and they love us. We appreciate it, and just want to perform at a high level for them."
As Ayers said, fans hit Twitter when they can't hit the practice fields to support the team. After the showing on Thursday, players took to Twitter themselves to show their gratitude.
"That was the most fans ever at Dove Valley for training camp! Thanks for all the support fans! #BroncosCountry #orangecrush," defensive tackle Mitch Unrein tweeted.
"Great energy at practice today. One of the best things about training camp is the fans. #GoBroncos," offensive tackle Ryan Clady added.
"Great crowd out there today!!! Good energy on the field. Happy where we're headed!" guard Zane Beadles said via Twitter.
Fifth-year veteran Jacob Tamme said that while it's important to maintain focus on the practice field, if the fans are having fun, so is the team.
"When you walk out to practice and it's standing room only, you can feel that. It's fun," he said. "That makes it fun, having the fans out like this. It's a neat time of year. The focus is what we're doing on the football field and getting better and preparing to do our best and win football games, but having them out and seeing the support, that's important."
Head Coach John Fox knows as well as anybody what type of an impact a crowd can make.
"Anytime you're a performer, whether it's sports or any kind of entertainment, the crowd gets you going," he said. "I think our fans are unique because they do love this team. It was evident that they're pretty enthusiastic about it."
But just as the players' job isn't anywhere near done after the first practice of training camp, neither is the fans'.
"I will, of course, need them all season," Manning said.