Pat Surtain II knows his place.
While he was the Broncos' first-round selection in this year's NFL draft, the rookie cornerback had no hesitation on whether or not he'd show up for rookie minicamp, as veterans around the league boycott offseason workouts.
"I was going to come up here and play regardless," Surtain said Friday at the beginning of rookie minicamp. "I’m a rookie, and I don’t have the advantage for me to talk or even miss minicamp. I don’t have any proven ability to miss minicamp. I just have to go out here and practice and compete every day and get right with the playbook. There were no plans of missing minicamp.”
And there likely won't be any plans of him missing Denver's OTAs, with Phase II of the NFL offseason starting Monday and on-the-field work starting May 24. Players like Surtain need all the offseason work they can get.
That's why rookie minicamp exists.
“We want to teach them a lot of stuff mentally is job one," coach Vic Fangio said. "We just had a walk-through out there, and I was impressed with what the guys were able to learn during the meetings that we had with them last night and this morning. They did a good job. Obviously, at that tempo it’s a little bit different than real life, but I think they’ve done a good job learning up until this point and that’s what we need to continue.”
While there isn't much one can take away from minicamp other than where coaches play certain players and the 30 minutes the media is allowed to watch them go through individual position drills, it is an important two or three days for rookies.
“Some guys have an easier time with adjusting to being on their own. They are on their own when they go to college, but they do get coddled and led around a little bit," Fangio said. "I don’t mean for that to sound negative. Now when they leave the building here, we give them as much guidance as we can and we have player programs. But they’re on their own. They don’t have school anymore, so they have to learn how to handle their free time constructively. On the field, it’s a different game."
The Broncos had 28 players show up for rookie minicamp, missing only seventh-round pick, Ohio State outside linebacker Jonathan Cooper who had a minor heart procedure. He's expected to join the team soon.
Since the draft, the Broncos have signed five of their 10 draft picks: defensive end Marquiss Spencer, cornerback Kary Vincent, wide receiver Seth Williams, safety Jamar Johnson and safety Caden Sterns. They've also signed 11 undrafted free agents and two tryout players, Northern Arizona quarterback Case Cookus and Utah defensive end Pita Taumoepenu.
It's unclear how many of them will again show up for OTAs, but it's assumed most will, as each is fighting to make the 53-man roster. The real question is how many veterans will show up, as the NFL Players Association continues to push for players to skip offseason workouts, despite Broncos Ja'Wuan James and DaeSean Hamilton suffering season-ending injuries away from the facility that will likely cost them millions.
“I’m not sure to be honest with you. I really don’t know," Fangio said when asked how many players will show up to OTAs. "We’ve put a lot of thought into the schedule that we have come up with. It came through many additions. I like the schedule we have. I think we’ve heard everybody’s side of the story — players, coaches, management. I don’t know how many will be here. Hopefully we’ll have a good number. It's voluntary camp, so whoever decides to come, we’ll be happy about.”
But one thing is certain heading into Phase II of the offseason: the rookies are going to need all the practice time they can get. And if they want to make the roster, that will be decided during OTAs and training camp.
"These guys need practice," Fangio said. "We had five jets, from the military I assume, fly over the field here towards the end of our walk-through and they came out all stacked up real close together. They split out and impressively turned around, came back past the practice field all in single file. My first thought when I saw all that was, 'man that must’ve taken a lot of practice.' That practice developed a lot of trust between those five pilots. They were flying close together for a while.
"That’s what we need to do. We need to have a lot of practice so these guys can trust each other — the guy next to him, the guy next to him, all through the 11 positions on the team. We need practice just like those pilots needed it."