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Rookies look to gain footing in first days of training camp

Take a look through the lens at our best photos from Day 1 of Broncos 2015 Training Camp.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Friday was a day of firsts for the Broncos: first day of training camp practice under Head Coach Gary Kubiak, first practice at the newly named UCHealth Training Center. It was all that and more for the rookies, who experienced their first ever day of training camp as NFL players.

Early work is without pads and team drills were at half speed without helmets, so it was a way to somewhat ease into training camp before getting into full action, but that didn't mean it was easy. Compared to the team work they did in OTAs, Day 1 of training camp was considerably tougher.

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"OTAs is kind of the introductory level and now guys are full go," Shane Ray said. "You've got to be on your stuff and be well-conditioned out here at practice to make sure that you can hang with everybody else. We're playing at a really high level and the altitude doesn't make it any easier so you've got to be on your P's and Q's."

Being on your P's and Q's as a rookie is no guarantee for success against veterans who, in Ty Sambrailo's words, "have been in the NFL as long as I've been playing football, pretty much."

Ray has two NFL greats in mentoring roles in DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller, so while he wants to show his skills on the field to remind people what they've forgotten of the former SEC Defensive Player of the Year, he's also using the time to listen and learn.

"For me it's about learning right now," Ray said. "I'm new. I'm a rookie, so it's not really too much talking I should be doing. I should be paying attention to what I've got to do and getting better and learning. For me, I'm just really focused on just getting better and trying to be the best I can be."

Ray and Sambrailo are probably the two rookies most expected to have big immediate impacts on the team, and while Ray gets to hear Ware's lessons, Sambrailo gets to experience them firsthand. But that's his preference, and he doesn't want Ware or Miller to give him anything less.

"He shouldn't," Sambrailo said. "This is the NFL. Both [are] great players, great guys – good teachers. I think going against the best like I do will only help speed up this learning curve, facing those kind of guys daily."

As a rookie, he's been trying to find the balance going against tested veterans and learning to develop those experiences.

"I have to come in and understand that this isn't college ball anymore, that these guys have been doing this as a living for many years. They've been in the NFL as long as I've been playing football, pretty much. It's an understanding that I'm not going to win every rep but also at the same time that's where I'm working towards."

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