ENGLEWOOD — At 8:59 a.m., a new era began in Broncos football. Joe Flacco, above, exited the locker room and walked into his first training camp practice as the quarterback of the Broncos.
A few chants of "Joe!" echoed in the distance as Flacco walked to the field on the far left at the UCHealth Training Center. Flacco, at 6-foot-6, remains impossible to miss. And is impossible to ignore. How he plays will go a long way in determining if the Broncos avoid their third straight losing season, something that has not happened since the drought of 1963-1972. In a Thursday morning interview on 104.3 The Fan, coach Vic Fangio, another reason for optimism, stressed the importance of establishing a foundation in camp. He is not old school, just a stickler for detail.
"We are going to harp on fundamentals," said Fangio, who wore his customary gray sweatshirt with khaki shorts for practice. "We are not going to lose sight of that."
All-Pro linebacker Von Miller hit the field at 9:10 a.m., roughly five minutes earlier than any appearance last season, and hyped the crowd. He believes he can give more to this team, something Fangio has stressed since the day he was hired. Miller is motivated by leading the league in sacks, winning defensive player of the year honors. It starts with stringing together good practices. The Broncos' 10-21 record over the previous two seasons revealed many failures, and perhaps most frustrating, was a lack of a discipline. Denver was among the most penalized teams, many of the head-shaking variety.
Creating a new culture and expectation begins on Day. 1.
Some quick observations as this will be updated throughout the day:
--Rookie quarterbacks Drew Lock and Brett Rypien were early arrivals on the practice field, joined by a crew of receivers, including Brendan Langley, River Cracraft and Tim Patrick and tight end Jake Butt.
--The crowd was light when practice began. My guess is that it is related to multiple factors: the projected 100-degree heat, the week-earlier start and the previous losing seasons. I never underestimate Broncos fans, so I would expect they began showing up in droves as the days progress.
--Star receiver Emmanuel Sanders (Achilles) and standout running back Phillip Lindsay (right wrist) both were practicing. They are expected to be eased into drills with limited reps.