ENGLEWOOD — At 10:04 a.m., Russell Wilson made his entrance, exiting the locker room dressed in a navy jersey, navy game pants and navy cleats. He jogged out to the practice field, and after a few quick stretches, made his way to the crowd on the berm. Wilson ran down the rope, slapping hands with the adults and kids, who came out to UCHealth Training Center on a sun-bleached Wednesday morning.
RussellMania ran wild on the Broncos' first training camp practice.
Three fans camped overnight to gain the best seats. Traffic jammed for roughly 20 minutes when the parking lots opened at 8 a.m. There were No. 3 jerseys worn, including a man with a half orange/half white one begging for an autograph under a tree outside the facility long after Wilson, wife Ciara and his support team had left the building.
This is what life is like with a star quarterback. More fans. More media (The New York Times showed up) and more excitement. At this moment in Broncos history, football for football's sake is considered hollow — these fans want this team to do something. Like win.
Wilson believes this group is prepared to reach lofty goals.
"This is a championship-caliber team," Wilson said. "We have talent. The second thing is that you must have knowledge of the game. Our knowledge of the game is so far along with the experience we have on the defensive side and the offensive side and it's up to me to pass it along," Wilson explained. "The other thing is that you have to have a vision. Vision is great but you have to have execution as well."
What played out in an uptempo practice provided a glimpse of why Broncos' fans have not been this jazzed for a season since Peyton Manning retired. The offense made plays. That seems silly to write unless you witnessed practice the past five training camps, all of which resulted in losing seasons.
Wilson worked well in red zone drills, throwing a pair of touchdowns to veteran tight end Eric Saubert, who slipped coverage from cornerback Ronald Darby. On the first score, Wilson ducked under rushing outside linebacker Malik Reed, moved to his right and found Saubert. This is the type of play that makes Wilson special, beyond his tear-drop deep passes.
Wilson is not afraid to color outside the lines. On Wednesday, he embraced the challenge of leading a new team.
"I don't get nervous," Wilson said matter-of-factly.
The nine-time Pro Bowler believes in separation through preparation. When he receives a new contract — that issue won't gain traction until the new owners expected official take over on Aug. 9 — Wilson won't require a four-hour independent study clause to force him to study. The Broncos would be well-served to force him to take fours hours off a week.
Wilson is like a shark — no wasted movement. He is awake for roughly 19 hours a day, allowing for plenty of time to focus on his family, faith and football. Plenty of football.
So after Kyle Murray received $160 million guaranteed for injury this week, does Wilson have eyes on a new contract with two years remaining on his deal? I asked him.
"Kyle, great for him. It really has nothing to do with me. I am excited to be here. I know that. I know I want to be here for a long, long time, hopefully for the rest of my career. It's been a blessing. To be here with (GM) George Paton, he has been amazing to me. Coach Hackett, he's first-class, an amazing mind. It's unbelievable the way he leads this football team," Wilson said. "The rest of the coaching staff, the players, this is a tremendous honor. I look at everyday as a new day. That's my sole focus. And winning a Super Bowl for the Denver Broncos."
Wilson chose the Broncos when a trade from Seattle became inevitable, liking the city, the history, the fan base, the roster. He is joining a team that has missed the playoffs six straight seasons, joining only the New York Jets with that indignity. But there is a crew of solid young players, the defense is solid, and could become special with more sacks and takeaways.
Safety Justin Simmons continues to show sticky fingers, which has turned him into a Pro Bowler and All-Pro. He intercepted Wilson on Wednesday as the competition between the first teams amped up. Backup safety P.J. Locke made plays for the second team.
"It's crazy man. I played against Russ my rookie year. He's pretty much the same dude, running around. Malik (Reed) thought he had him on a play, and there was (trash talk)," outside linebacker Bradley Chubb said. "That competition, you know, he's never going to give up on a play. It's been fun. He's going to make us better. And hopefully we make him better, too."
Coach Hackett liked what he saw from Wilson, as the quarterback set the pace in practice. The two have formed a collaborative relationship, important with the install of a new offense.
"It's a new system, new team, everything is new. Just watching his composure, command of the huddle. Working the system is what we are looking for. We all know what he can do on the field when it gets going and we simplify it down to a game plan for a specific week," Hackett said. "He's doing great and will get better everyday."
Broncos sign Fleming
With Tom Compton landing on the PUP list following back surgery, the Broncos added Cam Fleming for right tackle depth. Hackett said he wants 15 healthy offensive linemen. Billy Turner (knee), who was working on a side field on Wednesday, is also on the PUP list. Calvin Anderson took first-team reps at right tackle.
Ownership moves forward to Aug. 9 approval
Rob Walton's $4.65 billion purchase of the Broncos moved another step closer to approval.
Per an NFL spokesman, "The Finance Committee met today to review details of the proposed Denver transaction. The committee unanimously recommended the transaction for membership approval. The committee will make a report to all 32 clubs at the special league meeting on August 9. At that time, the sale of the club will be voted upon by the full membership with 24 of 32 votes needed to approve the sale."