ENGLEWOOD — On Sundays in NFL stadiums across the country, Joe Flacco plays a quarterback, whose personality casts him as a human metronome. His rhythm, beat and volume remain stunningly consistent. Flacco is not excitable, at least not outwardly.
"I want him to yell at somebody," receiver Emmanuel Sanders said, half-jokingly. "But that's not him. He's 'Pretty Boy Joe.' Everything he does is smooth."
Flacco is not the frosted side of life's mini wheat. He is not ice cold. He is cool. Like air conditioning set at 70 degrees. His personality comes with benefits, even if it is misunderstood. As coach Vic Fangio acknowledged, when Flacco is winning his demeanor is praised for its predictability. When losing, Flacco can be cast as aloof or disinterested.
"Joe is a fiery competitor. He leads by example," Fangio said after practice. "Trust me, inside his brain and belly it's burning."
Flacco is comfortable in his own skin and scraggly beard. He exudes confidence, but without a loud soundtrack. I asked him about his personality after Thursday's practice, and he provided insight into his leadership style.
"It's just the way I was brought up. It's not that I don't have emotion in me. Obviously, it can be mistaken as care and all of those things," said Flacco, entering his 12th season having played 16 games in nine of the previous 11. "It's the way I was brought up. I am not very good about being anyone but myself. I just got done watching Wimbledon and Roger Federer is my favorite player of all-time, and that's a big reason why. He's an unbelievable player, but you watch him throughout the match and nothing gets to him. It's awesome to see that. That's how I want to be."
Those familiar with Flacco's career know he hasn't changed. In his biggest moments -- that includes the victory over the Broncos that eventually led to his Super Bowl victory and Super Bowl MVP honors -- and worst -- getting benched last season -- he remains calmer than a lagoon. He's not a yeller. Or screamer.
"If you are frustrated, go fix it. I don’t want people to look at me and say, 'Stop being a baby,'" Flacco said. "I don't want to be like that. I don't want to be a whiner. I want to get the most out of my guys."
The Broncos need Flacco to return to prominence to achieve a winning record. After a practice to "knock the rust off," Flacco insisted he is in his prime. He believes he can reach another level. His teammates believe in him, confidence gleaned from his 10-3 playoff record, including an NFL record seven on the road. It is low-hanging fruit, but all praise centers on Flacco's arm strength. He showed it a few times Thursday, but his most impressive play was shifting left in the pocket and throwing a dime across his body to receiver DaeSean Hamilton.
Flacco inherits a team that went 10-21 over the past two seasons. The Broncos need a caffeinated offense. However, a cool head in the cockpit is not a bad thing after the recent wild flights of inconsistency.
"I don't worry about what people think," Flacco said. "I can only be me."
--I can confirm reports in The Athletic and The Denver Post that Todd Davis could be sidelined 3-to-4 weeks with a calf strain. Tough loss at a position where Broncos lack depth. Joe Jones is a veteran who could get additional reps along with second-year player Keishawn Bierria.
--Running back Phillip Lindsay took the first handoff on 11-on-11s and did not disappoint, bolting through a hole for a big gain. Lindsay is full-go after wrist surgery, though his reps will be monitored. "He is like one of my kids. I don't know where he gets all his energy," Flacco said. Lindsay caught multiple passes, creating mismatches in space.
--The Broncos drew only 1,257 fans, the lowest first-day total since the new setting with berm seating at UCHealth Center was created five years ago.
--The Broncos' first padded practice is set for Sunday.
--Juwann Winfree, a sixth-round receiver from Colorado, made a sliding grab in practice.
--Tight end Troy Fumagalli, a 2018 fifth-round pick who sat out last season following sports hernia surgery, received significant reps Thursday. It will be interesting to see how the position shakes out, and if Jake Butt is fighting with Fumagalli for a roster spot.
--Emmanuel Sanders participated in the first part of practice, remaining impressive is his return from Achilles surgery. He is on track to play in the season opener at Oakland. "I know my body. I am going to be OK," Sanders said.
--Rookie quarterback Drew Lock admitted there was no way he was reporting late to training camp as his agents sought a quarterback premium bump in his contract. Lock wasn't sure what the premium was, "but I was always going to be here." Lock made up his conditioning test after practice. He spent the past five weeks working on his footwork, watching film and listening to play calls recorded from OTAs. "I felt a lot more comfortable out there," said Lock, who praised coordinator Rich Scangarello "as the man for the way he teaches us and lets us fail after throwing everything at us. He's super good at teaching in the quarterback room."
--Broncos outside linebacker Bradley Chubb continues to draw praise from Fangio as a reliable young player. Why? Chubb pays attention to detail, and fundamentals are a staple of Fangio's coaching. "When coach has an emphasis on it, it makes me want to have even a greater emphasis on it as well," Chubb said.
--The Broncos will sign RB David Williams. He was in camp last year, and showed flashes. He provides depth but is a longshot to make the team.