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CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- The juxtaposition remains striking. A year ago, Case Keenum walked into Minnesota Vikings training camp as an afterthought. As the Broncos wind down minicamp, he spoke about his upcoming book and his obsession with a new offense.
Everything is different. And yet, it's not. He's still a quarterback driven by an insatiable appetite and ingrained humility.
"I want to master this offense. I want to master the nuances. I want to be able to say, 'This worked, but maybe try this on that play,'" Keenum said after the first day of the Broncos' final four-day mandatory minicamp before they break for the summer. "From where we are today to where we were a month ago, we’ve made some big steps.”
The Broncos' progress starts and ends with Keenum. He has emerged as the leader through his actions. He did not walk into the meeting rooms and throw a C on his chest. He earned respect -- the only way he knows -- by showing up early, working late and not letting anything slide.
"He works with us to make us all better," rookie receiver DaeSean Hamilton said.
Keenum is attempting to change the narrative around him. Everywhere he goes -- he insists that he's not recognized, nor does it matter -- the journeyman label follows him like a lost puppy. He became a coveted free agent by throwing for 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions with the Vikings. Now comes the hard part. The next season.
Keenum recognizes he has doubters. Yet, he uses it as fuel. No longer burdened with a sprained neck from looking over his shoulder, Keenum appears comfortable as The Man for the first time since his last season in college at Houston.
"Yeah, he’s a great leader. Every day—the majority of the days—he’ll come in and ask me and D.T. to go and watch practices and we’ll sit in the back room and watch film and go over what he’s thinking and what we’re thinking. I’ve been a part of two Super Bowl teams and that’s what it takes," receiver Emmanuel Sanders said. "That extra work that’s not mandatory, where guys are in there working out or working on their mental game. That right there, when it’s fourth quarter or when it’s fourth-and-5 or third-and-8. That’s the stuff that gets you over the hill.”
The Broncos' offense might as well have been climbing Pike's Peak in Crocs the past two seasons. Denver averaged 18.1 points per game a year ago, ranking 27th overall. The Broncos quarterbacks threw 22 interceptions. Only the Browns were worse. The league has changed. Boring is better offensively. The Broncos require a quarterback who can take care of the ball and take chances. Keenum learned this in Minnesota.
So miraculous was his season, multiple people approached him about writing a book. He agreed to the project. The working title is "Playing for More." It boasts stories about Keenum's journey, and stories that helped define him on and off the field.
As he spoke about being an author, Keenum never wavered. He talked like a leader. And that, more than anything else, is the takeaway this offseason. The Broncos know who is in charge. Now the challenge is real: Can Keenum lead them out of the darkness and back to the playoffs?
"We have to keep working," said Keenum, who plans to hold a passing camp with his receivers at an undisclosed location and will continue working with head trainer Loren Landow on his conditioning over the next few weeks. "I want a mastery of this offense."
Linebacker Shane Ray told Denver7 he will undergo a cleanup procedure on his left wrist on Thursday. He is frustrated, but recognizes it is necessary given the pain that returned. He has not given up hope of being ready for opening night, saying his recovery could range from "2-to-3 months." "I will stay positive," Ray said. ... Receiver Courtland Sutton continues to open eyes with his play. It's becoming increasingly likely he pushes for snaps early in training camp as the Broncos look to create multiple receiving threats.