ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- All of the on-field firsts of this weekend for Broncos rookies -- first practice, first face-off with a teammate, first teachable moment, first time complimented or excoriated by a coach -- will have to wait for defensive end Quanterus Smith.
The fifth-round pick has a jersey number (69) and a stall in the Broncos' locker room. But until he completes the rehabilitation from the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, he will be no more than a spectator.
That means nothing but mental reps through organized team activities, which extend into June. Smith and the Broncos hope -- and expect -- that he will be ready by the start of training camp.
"Yeah, it's a little upsetting, but it is what it is," Smith said. "I've just got to work hard to get back, but it is a little frustrating."
Smith said he began running within a week of the end of the NFL Scouting Combine in late February.
"I can run fine," Smith said. "I've been doing agility drills and all that stuff before I came up here."
"I mean, I feel good about everything. The combine, they rechecked it and said the knee looked good. But all the drills I've been doing, I felt good in them, so I feel good about it. It just takes time. I'm just waiting on time."
The lack of offseason work might not have much of an impact on Smith's role with the defense in his first year. The presence of Robert Ayers and Shaun Phillips to supplement the edge rushing of Von Miller -- who usually moves to defensive end when the Broncos are in their nickel and dime sub packages -- means that if all stay healthy, Smith will have the luxury of gradually easing his way into the rotation, rather than being tossed in immediately.
But if the Broncos have injuries there, Smith is among the next men up. What he knows he needs to improve is his consistency. His 12.5 sacks last year were confined to four games, three of which saw him post at least three sacks. Smith had 7.5 sacks in 2011, but they were better spread-out; he had at least a half-sack in six of Western Kentucky's 12 games.
"That's something I need to work on," Smith said.
But until his knee has fully healed -- and every indication is that it will -- all of that work will be confined to meeting rooms and playbook study.