CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Brock Osweiler spurned the Broncos 17 months ago, defecting to the Houston Texans as a free agent. Monday, he threw passes at practice wearing No. 17 again. Brock is back, a move which incited remarkable vitriol from fans who view him as a traitor. Osweiler returns rich -- he received $37 million on his deal, paid by the Texans and his last employer, the Cleveland Browns -- but broken and humbled.
"I would have come back as the waterboy," Osweiler said. "I am ecstatic. I told my agency, if there's an offer from Denver, I am taking it."
Requiring a veteran to back up Trevor Siemian with Paxton Lynch out at least a month, if not longer, with a right shoulder injury, the Broncos welcomed back Osweiler for "football rehab," as general manager John Elway put it.
Osweiler's return incites emotions -- who knew the most controversial decision at quarterback would be choosing Osweiler over Kyle Sloter?
"I understand the anger frustration from the fans," said Osweiler, who had options as backup, but wanted to be in Denver. "I hope in time the fans let me earn back their trust."
Teammates welcomed him with open arms. The NFL is a business. Nobody expected him back this soon. Having won with Osweiler matters.
"Sloter played well," cornerback Aqib Talib said. "But we know what Brock can do."
In a perfect world, Osweiler figures zero in Monday's outcome against the Los Angeles Chargers. That's right. Lost in the burning rage of the weekend's roster moves, in particular cutting Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward, the Broncos play for reals this week.
For all of the handwringing over the summer, the reality is this: Trevor Siemian needs to capitalize on this opportunity.
"This is Trevor's team," coach Vance Joseph said.
"Trevor is the starter. This is his team," Osweiler added.
Siemian, make no mistake, is the man. Osweiler returns as the No. 2. For Siemian, this platform is and should feel different. He's no longer the feel-good story -- the first Northwestern product to start an NFL opener since Otto Graham in 1955. He represents a second-year quarterback with an 8-6 record who owns the respect of the locker room. Even with Ward gone, the Broncos' defense looks sturdy, if not nasty. For the Broncos to return to the playoffs, it begins with a more aggressive, uptempo offense.
It starts with Siemian. He distanced himself from Paxton Lynch, who is not practicing, in the third preseason game, winning the quarterback derby for the second straight year. But, the Broncos need improvement.
"It's a quarterback friendly offense," Siemian said last week. "I am excited about what I can do."
While Osweiler will meet the press Monday, the story this week goes beyond his reunion. The focus should be, and as the week progresses, will be on Siemian. The Broncos believe in this defense. The offense, with potentially four new starters along the offensive line when Allen Barbre plays at left guard, has to show vigor. Receiver Emmanuel Sanders hinted at an attack that will be fast, and bold. The idea is sound. But what about the execution? Demaryius Thomas did not practice Monday as he heals a thigh injury. Who will be the third weapon in the passing game (Jamaal Charles, a random tight end?).
Brock is back. What the Broncos don't need, however, is a return of last year's offense.
Wolfe, Crick return
As promised, Derek Wolfe (ankle) and Jared Crick (back) practiced on Monday. Wolfe injured his right ankle on Aug. 12, and had not practice since. Crick suffered back spasms the next day, and Monday marked his return. It's impossible to overstate Wolfe's importance to the Broncos' rush defense. Crick, who should start opposite of Wolfe, provides a situational pass rusher. He also expects to be better against the run after adding 15 pounds this offseason. Zach Kerr, who injured his knee in the preseason, did not practice. There's no guarantee he will be ready for the opener. That could leave reps for Kyle Peko as Domata Peko's backup. ... Thomas will return to practice on Wednesday.