For Watts and Other Rookies, It's Time to Get Used to a Regular-Season Routine
By Andrew Mason
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The fact that the Broncos practiced with far more players than they will use in the regular season -- 89, to be exact, with the Monday addition of linebacker Riall Johnson -- meant that in one respect, Monday's work was little different than what the team faced for the previous three and a half weeks.
BRONCOS TV: A LOOK BACK AT THE WIN OVER SEATTLE
But the hundreds of spectators who attended the practice sessions were gone, along with the bleachers in which many of them sat. So too were the phalanx of television cameras that documented every snap of training-camp practice.
Most importantly for the players, two-a-days are a thing of the past -- at least until training camp begins anew next summer.
"Maybe I can get home before six o'clock," said tight end Byron Chamberlain.
"It's great," fellow tight end Jeb Putzier added. "We're all excited to be home, maybe in time to watch Friends or something. You can study at home, you get a chance to hang out and have a home-cooked meal."
But as wide receiver Darius Watts discovered, studying at home isn't enough. When he arrived, there were a few new wrinkles that he had to absorb in time for the afternoon session.
"They gave us a couple of new plays today," he said. "We had to come out here and had to know them. So we had to get in there real quick and try to brainstorm and get it all in, try to make sure we didn't mess up."
In that respect, Monday became just like a Wednesday during the regular season, which is exactly what Head Coach Mike Shanahan wanted to convey to his team for the first of three practice sessions leading into Friday night's home preseason opener against the Houston Texans.
"What we try to do here is the same schedule we have during the season," Shanahan said. "It's a little different for some of the guys that haven't been here because they are not sure about our schedule during the season. So this first day is a little bit unusual with the film during the morning and the walk-throughs in the early afternoon, special teams practice and the way we go about our Wednesday practices, which is essentially what we did today."
PERFECTIONIST: During Saturday evening's win at Seattle, Denver's defense yielded just 183 yards, three points, allowed only one foray into its red zone (and another that reached the Broncos 20-yard-line) notched five sacks and allowed the Seahawks to control the football for just 21 minutes and 10 seconds.
That wasn't enough for defensive captain Al Wilson, who assessed the defense with all the sympathy of a college professor bent upon vengeance.
"I'd give us about a C, C-plus," Wilson said. "We're working. It looked good on TV, but it's not what we want it to be. There's still some things we can clean up on the defensive side of the ball and we're trying to improve in those areas."
The three points conceded to a team with a highly touted offense is a sterling effort, but Wilson believes that the defense could have allowed more based on its errors -- which included 62 yards' worth of penalties on six infractions -- three for holding, two for illegal contact and one 36-yard infraction for pass interference, whistled against rookie Roc Alexander on the fifth play of the fourth quarter.
"We made a few mistakes here and there," Wilson said. "Not costly mistakes, but mistakes that we feel can definitely be changed and we can make a difference in the football game. Those are big plays that we could have made. We're just going to try to continue to improve."
BELL AT WORK: Shanahan held Tatum Bell out of work Saturday night, but the rookie running back was back on the field Monday afternoon, resuming the work he began when he came back from surgery on Aug. 11.
A cast still protected his right middle finger as he went through his on-field work.
"You can't take the cast off," Shanahan said. "He's not going to have that off for a while. I'm not even sure when he's supposed to get it off. But he's feeling a little bit more comfortable with it. He's starting to run better, and he's starting to catch the ball with it."
As far as determining who the team's running back will be, the game remains afoot.
"There is a lot of competition right there," Shanahan said. "We have to get a pecking order. 'Q' (Quentin Griffin) has been playing extremely well. I think we know what Mike Anderson and Garrison Hearst have done. We haven’t seen Tatum, and we've got a little idea of (Ahmaad) Galloway and (Santonio) Beard, but it’s great to get this extra game to get to evaluate them.”
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