ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **In his first offseason at Dove Valley after nine years away, Gary Kubiak wasted little time putting his stamp on the Broncos' day-to-day routine. But the structure of the three-day minicamp represents a radical departure from the past.
Helmets were out Tuesday -- and midway through practice, so were a handful of key, proven veterans. That group that included Peyton Manning, Emmanuel Sanders, Louis Vasquez, DeMarcus Ware, Von Miller, Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr. and T.J. Ward.
"What we're going to do during this camp is we're doing a lot of teaching, a lot of walk-throughs, some big-time individual work, a lot of conditioning work, and then we're leaving the young guys out here to do some team work," Kubiak. "I'm going to do that [Wednesday] and Thursday again."
As was the case with two OTAs in the last two weeks, this gives younger players more chances to show their skills, but Kubiak added that these sessions help "catch everybody up."
- "FASTER, MORE INTENSE."**
The rumored three-word extent of George Lucas' direction to his actors on the set of the first Star Wars film during its 1976 filming aptly describes the tenor of practices the last two weeks.
The ballcaps and visors the Broncos wore for Tuesday's two-hour session belied the speed at which the Broncos moved during every period. And while the younger Broncos took team and 7-on-7 repetitions, the core players continued working, exercising and lifting weights in the team's conditioning center.
"Minicamp, when you talk about the duration of practice, yeah, it's the lightest, but I would say it's the most intense, getting the most done in the shorter period of time that you have," Ware said after practice. "I'm still breathing hard right now from going from practice to working out to here."
2. UPDATING SHANE RAY'S PROGRESS:
The first-round pick remained confined to individual drills, with some straight-line and cutting work as he continued his recovery from the foot injury that hindered him before the draft.
Ray looked fluid as he changed direction during individual drills, easily and comfortably putting weight on the foot. It was "about the same as I did last week," he said, but the discomfort has receded.
"I don't have any more pain in my foot," Ray said. "It's about coming back at the right time. When they feel it's the time for me to come back, that's when I will be ready."
For now, any formations with Ray, Ware and Von Miller will have to wait. But they're coming, and Ware knows that Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips can make it work, because a similar grouping in Dallas with himself, Anthony Spencer and Greg Ellis in 2007.
"He would put all three of us out there and we would have just an array of rushes and we would sometimes just leave that package out there because some teams would try to do the hurry-up on us and try to run the ball but guys knew where they fit and how to stop the run and they didn't really know who to block," Ware said. "So it worked out really well."
- ABSENCES FROM PRACTICE:**
Three players on the active 90-man roster were not on the field Tuesday: tight end Jeff Heuerman (torn anterior cruciate ligament), defensive lineman Antonio Smith (excused absence) and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (unsigned franchise tender).
"I know [Thomas] is working," Kubiak said. "We've been in contact with him. I don't know if it's ever the same when you're not working here with the guys, but it is what it is."
Kubiak said he is "very confident" that the Broncos will work out a deal with Thomas. The team and Thomas have until July 15 to work out a long-term deal; if they don't, he will play under the one-year franchise tender that remains unsigned. Either way, Kubiak knows that Thomas will have to play catch-up for all the missed field and classroom time.
"It's our job as coaches when he does come in, to find out exactly where he's at, where we need to go, and make sure we have a plan to get there," Kubiak said. "You can't just (on) Day One, say, 'Go.' You've got to have a plan in place."
With Smith, it's status quo as the Broncos let his legal issues play out.
"This has been two weeks now, but we just have to keep our patience here and let him continue to go about it the way they're going about it," Kubiak said.
Kubiak said he and Defensive Line Coach Bill Kollar speak with Smith "almost every day."
"Hopefully we get some answers," Kubiak said.
4. MORE WORK FOR BROCK OSWEILER.
"It's a big offseason for a lot of guys, but I think for him, it's been even a little bit bigger," Kubiak said after practice.
Osweiler's accuracy continued to improve compared with the last two practices that were open to the media, although he missed one potential completion when safety Josh Bush read his intentions well on a rollout, accelerating over to break up the pass. Osweiler also had another pass batted down at the line of scrimmage. But the mistakes are becoming fewer and farther between for the fourth-year quarterback.
"It's huge that he continues to progress," Kubiak said. "It's very important that he shows that he can run the football team on days that Peyton's not out there.
Zac Dysert also had a solid day and wasn't afraid to throw into traffic and trust his receivers to make the play rather than settling for the checkdown. One example came when he found Isaiah Burse in tight coverage on a slant route for a completion on one seven-on-seven play.
Rookie Trevor Siemian also threw three passes in the seven-on-seven period, completing them all, although his last pass was a bit behind Solomon Patton, who reached back for the catch. Siemian does well at getting set and stepping into his throws, a promising sign given that he is seven months removed from a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
All of the quarterbacks have impressed Patton, who spent last year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"Honestly, these are the best quarterbacks I've played with for a long time -- from high school to college to the NFL," Patton said. "We've got a great group of quarterbacks and I'm excited to see all of them get better, and also catch balls from them."
5. PATTON-TED CATCHES.
On the reception from Siemian -- his second in a three-play stretch -- Patton reached back and to his side for the pass, tucked it away and didn't lose much speed, quickly accelerating back into the open field.
4.28 speed and quick acceleration make Patton impossible to miss, even though it would be easy for the 5-foot-9, 177-pounder to blend into the crowd. Only cornerback Tony Carter (175 pounds) is lighter among current Broncos. But his measurables and skill set -- with the potential and experience to handle punt and kickoff returns -- set him apart.
A May waiver claim from the Bucs, Patton has the chance to make the 53-man roster because he occupies a unique niche: he has prior NFL experience on punts and kickoffs, and the speed to be a change-of-pace offensive weapon on end-arounds and in space.
"I come out here every day, I make sure I catch all my punts, I do everything that the special-teams coach (Joe DeCamillis) asks me to do," he said. "Anything he needs me to do, if that's field-goal block, whatever, I'll do anything to make this team, help this team."
But he didn't catch everything.
"Well, today, it was a crazy kick, and it dropped so fast, and really, everybody, all of them were dropping so fast, and we weren't expecting it," Patton said. "It was just one today, But I made up for it. I didn't drop any more."
- "HI GWEN, HI TIDE." … "HI TIDE?" … "HI TODD."**
Twenty-two years ago, the lip-reading Cosmo Kramer couldn't get the hang of telling "tide" from "Todd," but if Todd Davis continues his progress, Broncos fans -- and opposing running backs -- will get plenty of chances to greet the second-year linebacker, who has made the most of the first-team work he has received while Danny Trevathan rehabilitates from his knee injuries during practice.
Davis stepped into the starting lineup after Trevathan and Brandon Marshall were injured against San Diego last Dec. 14, and even a new alignment and scheme did not derail his progress. His command in the defensive huddle appears to grow daily.
"I think with Todd it goes back all the way to the season, the end of the season with him playing a little bit and him taking on that role now," Ware said. " You're used to seeing him in the huddle now, calling the plays, calling the defense and being confident. He's gotten that confidence and that swagger that he needs to be that role player for us."
Added Kubiak: "Our guys inside have played really well, and it's because they got forced into a tough situation inside with two injuries. … That's going to be maybe as competitive a spot as we'll have going into camp."
- BIG TIGHT ENDS LOOKING NIMBLE.**
In the last two practices open for media viewing, the two veteran tight ends listed at 270 pounds -- Dominique Jones and Marcel Jensen -- were both active as targets of Osweiler and Zac Dysert.
"Both of them have done a good job so far," Kubiak said.
Jones, in particular, looked more agile last year, when he was a big body used as a blocker on a limited basis. He made consecutive receptions early in the seven-on-seven period Tuesday, looking fluid as he came down with the football and turned upfield.
But being in condition to look as smooth as he did Tuesday took some prodding from Kubiak. When they first met, Jones was 286 pounds -- 16 above his listed weight on the roster.
"We had a little meeting," Kubiak said, eliciting a laugh from the media. "He's now 265. I'm really proud of him. He's worked hard. I think he's got a chance to be a fine football player if he keeps his weight down -- and he's done that."
Jensen, a waiver claim from Jacksonville last month, "has caught up very quickly mentally" and does well at using his long arms and 6-foot-6 frame to reach out and make grabs others cannot.
"There's a place on our football team for another one of those type of guys, but he'll have to earn it," Kubiak said.
8. MICHAEL SCHOFIELD MAKES PROGRESS.
Ryan Clady's torn ACL changed the focus of second-round pick Ty Sambrailo, who is now locked in on learning left tackle. Clady's injury also changed the dynamic for Michael Schofield -- not just because he would see more repetitions at both tackle spots behind Sambrailo and Chris Clark, but because it turned up the heat on the 2014 third-round pick.
"I watched him practice different, almost like, 'Uh-oh, I'd better pick this up.' And he has," Kubiak said. "That's the way it works. Guys know; they're smart enough to know somebody's going to win that job. It's extremely important to our team that they play at a high level, and I think I've seen him respond since that happened."
The Broncos moved on to a new step in their offseason program on Tuesday, beginning their minicamp.