ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — After suffering a lower-leg injury earlier in the team's offseason program, rookie linebacker Baron Browning could soon return to the field.
"He'll be full go and ready to go by training camp," Head Coach Vic Fangio said Tuesday after the Broncos' first mandatory minicamp practice.
Browning, whose injury was characterized by Fangio as "more of a bone thing than a ligament thing," has not participated in on-field work open to the media since the Broncos' rookie minicamp in mid-May.
The Ohio State product was one of a handful of players who did not participate in the Broncos' minicamp practice. Cornerback Duke Dawson Jr. (ACL), safety Trey Marshall, outside linebacker Bradley Chubb (ankle), tackles Bobby Massie (pectoral strain) and Calvin Anderson, tight end Eric Saubert and defensive linemen Shelby Harris (skin procedure) and Mike Purcell (foot) did not practice. Wide receiver KJ Hamler (hamstring) also worked on a side field after participating in the team's stretching period.
Wide receiver Jerry Jeudy left practice early after "his stomach starting acting up a little bit," Fangio said.
Despite Browning's injury, Fangio said the team remains encouraged about his long-term outlook.
"That's been probably the biggest negative of this offseason work was him not getting the work that he would've gotten," Fangio said. "But we're still very high on him, very optimistic. Hopefully he'll be able to carve out a role on the team both defensively and in the kicking game. Anxious to get him back working in training camp. But still like him all the same. He still has versatility. Could play some outside for us, could play some inside. We'd like to settle him in one spot, but may not be able to, especially with the injury, but we'll see how that evolves."
Browning won't be the only player who is ready in time for camp. Fangio said he believes Chubb and Courtland Sutton will be ready for training camp. Sutton has practiced in spurts but has not worked in 11-on-11 action open to the media. Fangio said the Broncos would manage the workloads for both Chubb and Sutton.
"We'll manage his work just from a conditioning standpoint, because with his injury he hasn't been able to work out as much," Fangio said of Chubb. "He'll be working out the next few, five weeks prior to that, but he's not quite ready to push it hard. His limitations will be more conditioning than anything else."
Fangio said the team may have to "curtail" tight end Albert Okwuegbunam's workload as he recovers from an ACL injury, while he's not sure if Essang Bassey (ACL) and Dawson will be ready for team drills by training camp.
UNDER THE RADAR
During the course of the offseason program, Fangio has been asked about dozens of different players.
On Tuesday, he was asked to identify a player who has had a strong offseason but hasn't garnered much attention. Fangio quickly pointed to do-it-all wide receiver Kendall Hinton.
"A guy that's had a really good camp from the start of OTAs to now has been Kendall," Fangio said. "He's really looked good as a receiver and he's improved a lot. He's in the hunt there for one of those spots."
Hinton, of course, is most famous for appearance at quarterback against the Saints last season.
"[He's] super aggressive to the ball," Drew Lock said Tuesday. "You feel like you can throw him the ball one-on-one. He's going to go get it. Runs super defined routes. From receiver to kind of on the team to quarterback to receiver, he's definitely shown that he's here to work and he really cares about the game of football."
EVALUATING SHAQUEM GRIFFIN
Even as the offseason program nears its end, the Broncos continue to evaluate players across the league.
Denver hosted five tryout players for its Tuesday minicamp practice, and former Seattle Seahawks linebacker Shaquem Griffin was among those looking to earn a roster spot.
"Obviously it's hard to totally evaluate the special teams part of it, but he's got enough tape out there obviously that we know who he is or who he can be with special teams," Fangio said of Griffin. "Just need to evaluate him in total, whether there can be a spot for him on the team to bring to camp and if he's worthy enough of it. Obviously he's played enough in this league. He's a good special teams player and somebody that we're going to take a hard look at."
Griffin, who lost his hand to amputation when he was 4 years old, practiced with the team's outside linebackers on Tuesday. Von Miller was among the players he worked with, which may have been a full-circle moment for the young linebacker. In 2018, Griffin spoke at the Senior Bowl about how he tries to emulate Miller's game.
Nebraska wide receiver De'Mornay Pierson-El, Michigan wide receiver Amara Darboh, South Carolina tight end Kyle Markway and Nevada linebacker Gabe Sewell were the team's other tryout players.
As the Broncos began their minicamp, Fangio said the team's entire coaching staff has received the COVID-19 vaccine. The team currently has more than 60 players who have received at least one dose of the vaccine and he expects to be in the high 60s or low 70s by the end of the week.
"We've got a bunch of guys that have said they're going," Fangio said. "It's like college recruiting: There's a lot of verbal commitments that don't follow through. We'll see how our verbal vaccinations follow through."