ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --After only seeing the field for small slivers of the past two seasons, tight ends Julius Thomas and Virgil Green have certainly gotten their lion's share of action at Broncos training camp.
And now, both players are looking to make the most of their swift opportunities by showing that they can be effective contributors on the Broncos offense.
"This is a league where you have to earn your spot. Nobody is just going to give it to you," Thomas said following Tuesday's practice. "It is definitely up to me to come out in these preseason games and instill confidence in the coaches and our other players that I can get the job done at tight end."
Thomas and Green have absorbed the brunt of the reps at tight end over the past few days as a result of injuries that have temporarily sidelined Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen, last year's starting tandem.
For Thomas, rising to the occasion when the opportunity presents itself is an inherent part of the game – although he's also cheering for his teammates to recover as soon as possible.
"It's the nature of this business. I went down and opportunities came for other people," Thomas said. "Now it has come around and it is my turn to get my opportunity. I hate to see guys like Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen go out; I am definitely pulling for them to get healthy. It has to be, 'The next man up,' and I'm going to try and do my best out there on the field."
Thomas is well-qualified to empathize with Tamme and Dreessen.
After nagging ankle injuries significantly limited his ability to play over the past two seasons, the 6-foot-5, 250-pound tight end has been healthy throughout camp – and he's also made plays all over the field in practice.
Thomas was taking reps with Peyton Manning even before Tamme and Dreessen were injured – in addition to taking reps with other offensive units – but the injuries to his teammates have increased his workload even more.
"I am getting a lot more snaps now in training camp," Thomas said, noting that his confidence level has increased significantly. "It helps me to be comfortable out there on the field. After being out for so long, it is just something that gives you peace of mind when you are out there."
Thomas was quick to point out, however, that earning more playing time has been his goal all along.
"I don't want to watch football games on Sundays—that is not what I signed up for," Thomas said. "Regardless of other players being injured or not, I was coming to camp to put my best bid in to get playing time on Sundays.
The 6-foot-5, 255 pound Green – who has 8 career receptions for 87 yards – is also looking at the situation as an opportunity to showcase himself as another play-making option for the Broncos.
"Absolutely," Green responded when asked about whether the situation at tight end is an opportunity for him to contribute more on offense. "I just have to make plays like I did today and just keep building on it and be more consistent."
Manning said on Tuesday that he was pleased with the performances of both players in camp thus far.
"Virgil and Julius have gotten great work this training camp," Manning said. "You've seen Julius split out wide some; you've seen him make some good catches at the tight end. And Virgil is one of our strongest guys on the team, yet he's made a lot of plays in the passing game. So it's been a really good camp for both of those guys."
Now, in trading the practice field for the preseason, both players will have further opportunities to make an impact -- this time in a game setting.
"My whole mindset when I was going through rehab and trying to get back was to be ready for my opportunity when it came," Thomas said. "Now I have a great opportunity ahead of me and I have to make the most of it. So, I'm looking to go into San Francisco and execute well and see if I can show somebody something."