ENGLEWOOD -- On the eve of training camp, Dalton Risner sent a message at a community event without saying a word. His navy blue shirt read in emblazoned orange letters: Entitled To Nothing.
Welcome to the 2021 Denver Broncos. This organization sits in prove-it mode from the head coach to the players after posting four straight losing seasons for the first time since 1963-72.
The ugly history has created urgency.
"I think we are all competitors. We don’t like losing football games. We know Broncos Country doesn’t like losing football games. This isn’t just a game. This is our job, our livelihood. For me, I am not only a player for this organization, but I am a fan. I think all of us have the mindset that we want to be a better football team," Risner told Denver7 in a one-on-one interview.
"One of things we have done better is identifying our goals, making it clear what we want to accomplish. There's just a different feel with this team."
The Broncos cannot afford another September step onto a banana peel that places them in traction. They have dropped eight straight, including seven under coach Vic Fangio. This a developing team, no longer the youngest. Several offensive players are entering their second and third years, which could make them ripe for Teddy Bridgewater's leadership. He's more Zen Diesel than Vin Diesel, connecting through conversations designed to create accountability.
"Teddy is a guy who has been around the game a long time. We are maturing. But we might not be used to the ups and downs. Teddy keeps everyone calm and collected. You can just tell he's been doing this for awhile," Risner said. "That is important because there might be a game where I get riled up or (someone else does) and it's great to come into the huddle and hear him say, 'I got this.' He's not riding the roller coaster. He's not a rah-rah guy. He leads by example, and I love that."
The past five weeks proved productive for Risner. He came into camp at 316 pounds, the heaviest and leanest he's ever been. He weighed the same on Thursday, an indication he's not losing strength. Against the Rams last Saturday, he pancaked a linebacker on the second level.
It was a reminder of the mentality needed for his hard work to transfer into team success. That is all that is important.
"You have to go out there and be nasty and those type of plays will come to you. I truly feel it was the best camp I've had. I feel like I am going into my best year. And yes, I know that's a cliche, and people say that stuff to get hyped up. But I didn't say that before the past two years," Risner said. "I am moving better. I am more focused, more mature. I don't even like talking about it because none of that matters. It's about proving it on the field beginning in Week One. But I do think some big things are going to happen this year."
Pro Bowler Bradley Chubb hurt his ankle last week, but played in the team's preseason finale. With the extra time before the opener, coach Vic Fangio said "we're giving him this week to get it right." It's not the ankle in which Chubb had bone chips removed from over the summer. He is still expected to play vs. the New York Giants on Sept. 12. ...
Tight end Noah Fant (leg) did not practice, but confidence is high that he will go against New York. ...
New running back Nate McCrary will wear No. 15, and Andre Mintze switched to No. 48 after Derrek Tuszka was cut and signed with the Steelers practice squad. ...
Coach Fangio admitted he could use rookie Pat Surtain II in coverage against tight ends. His versatility should only enhance a strong secondary.