ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- On Thursday, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas called fellow receiver Emmanuel Sanders "too quick." Quarterback Peyton Manning and Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase have echoed similar compliments and noted his work ethic and talent.
Sanders, who joined the Broncos as an unrestricted free agent on March 16, appreciated the nods. But he knows that the work isn't close to being done.
"I still have a lot of work that I have to put in," Sanders said. "It's early. It's OTAs right now. I'd be lying to you if I told you that I know the playbook. My head is still spinning a little bit. But, I'll tell you what, I'm happy and excited to be a Denver Bronco."
Sanders and Manning both understand that creating chemistry between quarterback and receiver takes time, so the two are putting in extra work after every OTA practice so they can foster a strong connection. Thomas said Sanders is a quick learner so creating that chemistry will come in time.
"Now that you can put it together in team work with guys like Emmanuel, with guys like [WR Cody] Latimer when he gets out there, it's beneficial," Manning said. "You really couldn't have enough OTAs because the season opener will be here before you know it. Emmanuel's been here the entire time. He's worked hard. He's asking a lot questions … but I appreciate his work ethic and he's certainly a talented player."
In addition to working with Manning, Sanders is leaning on all the players on the team to help him as he studies the playbook and the offense. He said it is the most difficult playbook that he has been a part of and he's still learning it, but during OTAs he's showing he can contribute to the offense.
"I've been very impressed," Gase said. "He's been exactly what we thought from watching him in Pittsburgh. His ability to get off versus the jam is very impressive. Just that quickness, top of the route, and that speed down the field is something that we were very interested in to start with, and he's shown us that he's still got that."
Sanders is learning a lot from teammates like Thomas and Wes Welker. With compatible sizes, Welker is a good model for Sanders to learn from and Sanders admires his knowledge of the game.
But Sanders appreciates Thomas for another reason.
"Me and Demaryius complement each other," Sanders said. "I'm not saying that me and Antonio Brown didn't complement each other, but I feel like we're too much of the same. DT is a big receiver. He's a big, physical receiver and I'm a more a smaller, quick, faster receiver that can stretch the field. It definitely gives our offensive coordinator the ability to go imagine. I think Peyton likes that a lot better also."
Sanders is excited to be part of an offense that spreads the ball around, setting an NFL record last season with five players, including three wide receivers, scoring 10 or more touchdowns. He said the wide receivers' numbers from last season, though the receptions were shared relatively evenly between receivers, were perfect for him.
During OTA practices, Sanders said he goes around and tells each of his new teammates how fortunate they are to play in the NFL. He tells them to take advantage of the opportunity to play and reminds them that one day they will tell their grandchildren about their days in the NFL.
Sanders' unique appreciation of the games stems from his experience when he broke his foot during his rookie year in 2010. He sat on the sidelines during the Steelers' Super Bowl loss.
"I missed out on practices and I remember those moments and I was sitting on the sideline questioning myself, would ever run again, because it felt like I would never run again with two foot surgeries," Sanders said.
After the difficulties he faced while recovering from his injuries, he is now enjoying being an NFL player more than ever. He is truly soaking in the opportunity to play, to learn from new teammates and to be a member of the Denver Broncos.