ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Through the first seven sessions of Broncos training camp that have been open to the public this year, 28,517 fans have seen the club practice.
On Saturday, that total could double.
With the large crowd expected for the team's Summer Scrimmage at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, the organization is encouraging fans to carpool and use public transit to get to the stadium.
The scrimmage, which is free and open to the public, begins at 3:30 p.m. Parking for the event is also free; however, lots are expected to fill up quickly. Overflow parking will be located in the Auraria Campus and Pepsi Center parking lots, where fans may be required to pay.
"We've had incredible fan support at Dove Valley for camp," Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway tweeted on Friday. "Let's pack the stadium tomorrow for Summer Scrimmage!!"
Broncos fans have seen quarterback Peyton Manning air it out at the stadium on a few occasions playing for the Colts. Saturday, they will be able to cheer for the four-time MVP as he laces them up for the hometown team.
"It's a great stadium," Manning said. "I've always thought that, and I've always thought the Broncos have had great fans. It's always been a loud, tough place to play as an opponent."
As for the structure of the scrimmage, expect the team to begin the session like a typical practice. They'll walk through a pre-game stretch, break into position groups for individual drills, then begin team drills. The scrimmage portion will begin around 5 p.m. and wrap up around 6 p.m.
"We'll be on it tonight and go over the playing time, but we expect probably all three groups to get 12 plays apiece," Head Coach John Fox said about the scrimmage structure. "We've got some seven-on-seven (drills) scheduled, as well as some special teams. Part of it will be a practice, and part of it will be a scrimmage for the fans out there tomorrow."
Practicing at the stadium lets the new players and coaches get a feel for what a home game day will be like.
"It's like a dry run at a game, almost," said Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio, who is in his first year on the coaching staff. "We'll have our coaches in the booth. We'll work substitution from the sideline, which we try to work quite a bit out here."
Practicing in front of a larger crowd at the stadium allows the coaching staff to get a different look at how the players respond in a game-like atmosphere. Coaches work on evaluating the roster every day at Dove Valley, but Saturday's scrimmage will offer another look at how players perform under some added pressure.
"Really, seeing how guys respond when the lights are on," Del Rio said about what he will look for out of the scrimmage. "When it's simulated a little closer to an actual ball game, some guys respond better than others. We want to see how the group responds, how individuals respond. We're still working on ourselves, Broncos on Broncos, so there's not game-planning involved or anything like that. But we just want to see the guys compete and let it sort itself out. We have a lot of decisions to make on this football team and that will be one part in that process."
While the team has practiced in pads at Dove Valley, none of the drills are truly 'live' and full-contact.
Saturday, that will change.
Quarterbacks will still be off limits for contact, so don't expect to see Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil take down Manning.
For the rest of the position groups, however, the goal will be to get the ball carrier to the ground.
"It's going to be the first time we're going to go to the ground in a scrimmage situation," Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy said. "We have had a short-yardage and a goal-line scrimmage. But for the whole distance of the field, first, second down, third down, if it's in the red area, if it's another short-yardage or goal-line play, just let guys go cut it loose and see what they can do when it's more game-like and not a controlled tempo."
Players are excited about the chance to perform in front of a larger crowd than the grassy hills at the team's Dove Valley headquarters can hold.
That should translate into a few more pops of the pads tomorrow as the practice tempo picks up.
"It's at the stadium, so it's going to be a little more intense," tight end Joel Dreessen said about the scrimmage. "There's a little bit more of a special feel to it, a little more of a game-type atmosphere, so we'll probably be a little bit more excited about it than strapping it up and coming out here."
In four career games at Sports Authority Field as an Indianapolis Colt, Manning completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for 905 yards and six touchdowns to just one interception.
On Saturday, fans will get their first taste of what the future Hall-of-Famer looks like throwing the ball to Broncos receivers in their home stadium.
"There have been great crowds out here at camp," Manning said. "I've always thought that the louder the place is, the tougher it is on opposing quarterbacks coming in, and the home team can feed off that energy, so I know the crowd—the 12th man—will be a big part of our season this year. Saturday will be a good way to start it off. Just from playing here, I can tell the Broncos have passionate fans that love their team, and I'm glad to be on that side now."