ENGLEWOOD, Colo. –While the Broncos return all 11 offensive starters from the lineup that opened the 2012 season, there is an addition that is expected to be on the field when the team kicks off the 2013 campaign.
And that new piece has been to the Pro Bowl in each of the past five seasons.
Wide receiver Wes Welker joined his new teammates Monday for his first practice with the Broncos during the team's first day of OTAs.
"It was good," Welker said of how he thought the session went. "It was good to get out there and get some work in, kind of feel things out for myself and see how things are done here. Just kind of get on the program."
Welker got some work in with Manning and fellow wideouts Demaryius Thomas and Demaryius Thomas at informal practices held at Duke University earlier this offseason.
He also had a chance to catch passes from Manning during the beginning phases of the offseason program.
"I think any time you get out there and get work together, whether it was at Duke or here or anywhere, it's all very important," Welker said. "It's all key to your success and how things are going to go during the season. It's all very, very important."
Monday marked his first practice reps against the Denver secondary, though he didn't yet match up against potential nickelback Chris Harris Jr..
After one day of practice, cornerback Champ Bailey didn't see enough to weigh in on the battle, but said it's something that he's excited to watch throughout the year.
"We haven't seen it yet, honestly," Bailey said. "But it is to be seen. I'm looking forward to it."
Combined, Welker and quarterback Demaryius Thomas have 24 years of NFL experience and 17 Pro Bowl selections.
Manning has seen plenty of Welker's play on tape and now he is getting his first look at what the 10th-year wide receiver can do as a member of the Broncos offense.
"Well, I can just speak for what he's done in New England," Manning said. "He's just been an extremely difficult guy to cover one-on-one and then you can tell by watching him on film—he's an extremely smart player. He has an excellent feel for zone coverage. This is just the beginning stages of him getting comfortable in this offense and he and I getting on the same page. We put a lot of time in together as individuals, but just versus air. We spent a lot of time talking as well. Now that we're going against the defense, we'll continue to learn and there will be some things we have to work through, but that's what OTAs and training camp is for."
The more time Manning and Welker spend on the field together this offseason, the better their chemistry will be for the team's season opener against Baltimore on Sept. 5.
"Everything's been great so far," Welker said. "We talk a lot about doing this on this route or what are we doing on this protection, different things like that. There's a lot of feedback back-and-forth and making sure everybody's in the same lingo and everything like that. So it's been really good. A real positive thing for me."