ENGLEWOOD — Rahim Moore was so excited for the Denver Broncos' first practice of the offseason — and his first in six months — that he sauntered out of the locker room with his jersey on backward.
So, he spun it around and it got stuck halfway with the sleeves in front and back and he found himself in an even bigger bind.
"I was just all over the place — I felt like I'd never done this before," Moore said. "And then when I got out here, I felt like I'd never left."
Moore hadn't faced an offense since undergoing emergency surgery on his left leg last November.
He was one of several Broncos who had to watch the Super Bowl from the sideline and who returned to the football field for the AFC champs' first 11-on-11 drills of the year Wednesday.
Joining him were fellow safety Quinton Carter, pass-rusher Von Miller (limited), defensive lineman Derek Wolfe and left tackle Ryan Clady.
Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. worked on the side with a strength and conditioning coach while his teammates enjoyed their first offense vs. defense practice since the lead-up to the Super Bowl on Feb. 2.
"I think a lot of guys have been excited for this day," Peyton Manning said. "Finally get to put on jerseys and helmets and it's great to see a lot of guys back out on the practice field, guys that were injured last year. ...
"How much work these guys have put in from a rehab standpoint, to get back on the field I know was a monumental step for a number of guys, especially a guy like Ryan Clady."
Manning has compared the return of his blindside protector, a perennial Pro Bowler who played just two games last season before sustaining a foot injury, to the signing of the league's top free agent or top overall draft pick.
One of Denver's marquee free agents, defensive end DeMarcus Ware, also is coming back from an injury-filled 2013 season, missing games for the first time in his career with a thigh injury and playing through a balky right elbow that required surgery in February just before the Dallas Cowboys released him.
"I'm not 100 percent, but in these types of practices, you don't have to go 100 percent," Ware said.
Although there was no live hitting, this was the first time Denver's rebuilt defense and its refurbished offense squared off.
"Well, it's real football," coach John Fox said. "You get to practice against somebody. Offense and defense practice against each other. That's really the first phase where that's allowed by the (collective bargaining agreement). So, I just call it 'real football.' Back on the grass. I think they get excited and I know all the coaches get excited about it."
Coaches cautioned players not to go all-out before they put on the pads for a minicamp next month. Several players across the league sustained season-ending injuries during OTAs this week, including Ware's former teammate, linebacker Sean Lee, who tore a ligament in his left knee Tuesday.
"First of all, the players, we're really concerned, especially the first meeting that we had here this morning, really thinking about our health and not trying to go as hard, not like you have pads on," Ware said. "Really just taking care of each other but being able to get your mental reps in and still being able to be physical but having the right technique."
Another of Denver's big-time free agents, safety T.J. Ward, addressed the media for the first time since being charged with assault last week over an incident at a strip club in which he was seen on surveillance video throwing a glass mug at a female bartender on May 10.
"Any time there's negativity, you know, about yourself, it's a little embarrassing," Ward said. ... "But it's all being resolved, and I'm looking forward to just moving forward and continuing with the OTAs."
Nobody seemed happier to get back to the business of football than Moore, who underwent emergency surgery Nov. 18 to relieve pressure in the muscle sheath in his lower left leg, a rare condition known as lateral compartment syndrome that can cost patients a limb or even their life.
"I feel like it was my first time ever playing football," Moore said. "I got a little teary eyed during warm-ups."