DENVER -- It's been 189 days since Bronco fans last saw their team perform in Colorado. That's also 189 days since Broncos players had that familiar mile-high roar to urge them onward.
"We've got the best fans ever in NFL history," Rahim Moore said after practice. "It's a blessing to be out here."
The fans more than returned the love, with many lining up at stadium gates early Sunday morning to get a front-row seat for their first on-field introduction to the 2014 Broncos. Others sacrificed their choice of seats to greet the players even earlier, staying outside the stadium and lining the walls of the southwest tunnel for when the team bus arrived.
The first player on the field was fittingly Peyton Manning. The crowd of nearly 22,000 erupted as he emerged from the tunnel and the screams from the south stands continued for several minutes as he signed autographs. Each player arriving on the field brought more cheers, especially Wes Welker, Von Miller and Aqib Talib.
Check out photos from the Broncos' first practice at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
"To have everybody cheering your name and have people screaming your name, it's an amazing feeling," rookie Cody Latimer said. "We have some true fans out here."
"It doesn't feel like practice. It was like we were playing a real game."
Even after the team's first padded practice of the offseason brought a surge of energy yesterday, Head Coach John Fox said the fans were able to provide an extra boost.
"Our guys were really excited about it," he said. "It has been pretty quiet out there at Dove Valley. That definitely helps our guys is seeing the Bronco fans."
A player who particularly relished the time in front of the crowd was Kevin Vickerson, who finished last season on injured reserve after suffering a hip injury against the Patriots in Week 12. The gap since he last played made Sunday's experience that much more rewarding for the 8-year veteran.
"I missed a lot of football, so I'm just happy to be here," he said. "Training camp goes by a little smoother with the fans being involved, so it's always a pleasure to have them around cheering us on."
"We're just trying to give them what they like to see and that's some Bronco football."
Jacob Tamme used his opportunity after a touchdown to give the fans something extra to cheer about, performing a "Bronco-riding" dance that he says he's been working on for a little while.
"This is the time where it gets fun," he said. "We're getting to our full team periods, full pads, and obviously when you get into the red zone it gets pretty exciting. It's neat for the fans and it is good work for us."
The reaction after touchdowns was impressively boisterous considering the number of fans on hand, getting players excited about what will happen when the regular season arrives in September.
"If they start screaming at the beginning, you can barely hear already," former CSU Ram Kapri Bibbs said. "I can only imagine what it's going to be like when the whole crowd gets going."