As the five-o-clock hour approached in Englewood, Colo., fans were treated to a pleasant, all too familiar sight.
Gracing the field for the first time since training camp officially began was star cornerback Champ Bailey.
When Bailey approached the fans' side of the practice field, he was greeted with a great roar of applause.
On the field, he did not disappoint either.
When the team took the field for 11-on-11 drills, Bailey erased what would have been a sure touchdown pass from quarterback Kyle Orton to receiver Brandon Marshall.
In addition to the return of Bailey, fans were treated to their first look at new safety Renaldo Hill and third-year defensive tackle Marcus Thomas.
Hill was practicing with the first-team defense while Thomas was rotating at nose tackle with Carlton Powell on the second- and third-team defenses.
There were mixed reactions about Saturday's session. One fan was complaining about Kyle Orton completing a series of five-to-ten yard passes instead of throwing the ball 30 yards downfield, and some fans were harping on the defense after a couple of good runs by Ryan Torain, Correll Buckhalter, and Peyton Hillis.
Still, the defense quite honestly dominated much of the day.
It all started in one-on-one tackling drills, when Josh Barrett absolutely leveled Brandon Marshall, knocking his helmet clean off.
That hit seemed to really inspire the crowd, and Marshall met with Barrett twice more, and twice more the two players had an excellent battle. On the final run, Barrett even tore a bit of Marshall's undershirt, and Marshall pushed him away out of anger.
“We were both going out there, trying to get the best of one another,” Barrett said, noting that he couldn’t judge who won the matchups. “I’ll give it to him if he thinks he won. I know he didn’t score.”
Barrett's physical battles with Marshall prompted me to wonder if some of the players on the Broncos are holding animosity toward the Pro Bowl receiver for his actions this off-season, for thinking he is above the team.
For what Marshall appears to lack in sense and maturity off the field, he was his usual happy-go-lucky self toward the fans.
Before practice, he gave footballs to at least 25 young fans.
The real star of the day was wide receiver Chad Jackson, who was signed midway through last season due to injuries at the position.
Jackson caught every ball thrown his way, and two of the receptions were in triple coverage. Those catches drew "ooh's" and "ahh's" from the crowd, as well as applause.
If he continues to perform at that level, there is no way the Broncos can afford to simply let him go. He is an outstanding talent, and he appears to be a rock-solid athlete.
Brandon Stokley and Eddie Royal continued to set the bar high for the other receivers at practice today, and Stokley was the recipient of quite a few passes on third down during the two-minute drill.
I reported yesterday that LaMont Jordan appeared to be the first-team tailback, but today the Broncos rotated in all of Jordan, Correll Buckhalter, Ryan Torain, and Peyton Hillis at the running back position.
Hillis and Torain did exceptionally well, and free agent signee Darius Walker scored three touchdowns in eight-on-eight drills.
Brian Dawkins was his usual energetic self today, but with the additions of Bailey and Hill to the defensive backfield, this was undoubtedly a more inspired unit as a whole.
During the first two-minute drill, Kyle Orton seemed to have the team driving down the field when poor communication caused him to throw an interception to Andre Goodman.
Chris Simms had already been struggling throughout practice, and the two-minute drill really did him in.
He threw an interception to Goodman as well, and D.J. Johnson appeared to pick off a Simms pass but he was ruled out of bounds.
He also threw passes that were caught and dropped by safety David Bruton and Jack Williams.
Due to his poor play, Simms was told to run a lap around the field, but he was not the only one.
Rookie quarterback Tom Brandstater and rookie center Blake Schlueter botched a snap and had to run a lap, and the second defensive unit was out of position and McDaniels had seen enough.
The entire group was sent off and running.
Additionally, any time a pass is dropped, fumble or not, the players are required to pick the ball up and run to the end zone.
Head coach Josh McDaniels is really pressing the fundamentals on his new team, and it appears to be paying dividends. There is a noticeable discrepancy in hustle from the past two seasons, and a huge energy shift.
It is also being reported that Jarvis Moss, who missed today's practice session for personal reasons, is considering retiring at the age of 24. This would be horribly sad news for the former first-round pick's career, but he needs to do what is best for his family.
More to come from day three practice.
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