ENGLEWOOD • It was the great American philosopher Aqib Talib, not to be confused with 2 Chainz, who once said, “They fired all the dogs,” and the Broncos haven’t been the same since.
“I feel like we’ve got dogs,” Von Miller retorted on Saturday. “I’m still here. We’ve got Chris (Harris Jr.). I’m a big dog.”
The 2017 Broncos were the Inhumane Society.
Sundays felt like cruel and unusual punishment.
Retiree Peyton Manning attended the first day of training camp for the 2018 Broncos. He didn’t bring dogs, but he brought his kids, who played with Uncle Stokley (a media guy), Uncle Demaryius and Uncle Von (“They’re getting so big,” Miller said). Marshall and Mosley Manning sheriff’ed the show.
Couldn’t join the 3,417 Broncomaniacs who sunbathed on the berm at UCHealth Training Center to usher in a new season? Here’s what happened:
9:16 a.m.: Rookie wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton is the first Bronco on the practice fields. Speaking of, this is how I expect it will all shake out when the Broncos end up choosing six wide receivers for the 53-man roster: tier 1, Demaryius Thomas/Emmanuel Sanders; tier 2, Courtland Sutton, Hamilton; tier 3: Isaiah McKenzie/WRTBD.
9:30: Manning mania is alive and well. Broncos rookie Bradley Chubb says he was too nervous to shake No. 18’s hand. Veteran Zach Kerr says, “He’s a walking G.O.A.T. It’s Peyton Effing Manning.” Manning addressed the Broncos early this offseason on “how to be an NFL pro.” He laid low Saturday.
9:32: The Broncos season can start now. The Gazette’s Woody Paige is here! Woody’s covering his — wait for it — 45th Broncos training camp.
9:42: Marquette King is the loudest personality at Broncos punter since bodybuilder Todd Sauerbrun. He’s often spotted mixing and editing music in the team’s chow hall. Oh, and King’s heavy leg goes boom! There flies another 60-yard moonshot. Great pick-up, John Elway. Now let’s hope King never plays.
9:43: Come to think of it, Talib has a point. Who are the dogs on this Broncos team? Who makes opponents nervous when they’re on the field, coaches nervous when they’re off it? The NFL’s better teams have guys who lack an “off” switch.
9:44: But the newest Broncos don’t lack for hobbies. King prefers to talk cartoons and video games over football. Sutton finds fishing holes by looking for blue on a map. Case Keenum, a 0.4 handicap on the sticks, played 18 holes last week with Astros pitcher Justin Verlander.
9:47: Good morning, Phillip Lindsay. Swift, sure-handed and slippery, the undrafted Colorado Buffalo made a statement on Day 1. His new teammates noticed and offered unfettered praise for the rookie: “He’s going to be our third down back,” veteran Brandon Marshall said.
9:48: Lindsay again! This time he shakes a cornerback on a swing pass. How’d he go undrafted?
“It’s hard to believe,” Vance Joseph said.
9:49: D.T. across the middle ... dropped. Oh, dear. Uncle Demaryius needs 47 receptions to pass Shannon Sharpe at No. 2 on the all-time Broncos list, 221 to pass Rod Smith, who’s also here with his kids, at No. 1. Can D.T. do it?
10:44: The emphasis on special teams is a real thing. Sixty-four minutes in, and we’re on the third special teams session. “Perfect reps!” new coordinator Tom McMahon shouts. “I want perfect reps!” McMahon follows Brock Olivo, the opposite of Keenum following Elway and Manning.
10:54: Speaking of, there’s Keenum with a 40-yard touchdown pass to Sanders in the deep left corner of the end zone! The crowd goes wild! The Broncos are AFC West champs for sure.
10:56: OK, let’s smother Keenum in bubble wrap. The drop from QB1 to the backups is roughly the Royal Gorge. Yikes. Pray Keenum doesn’t get hurt, or this season has 5-11 written all over it.
11:01: If I’m Devontae Booker, I have a cool name. I’m also nervous. From Booker to Royce Freeman to De’Angelo Henderson to David Williams to Phillip Lindsay, it appeared that every running back got first-team reps on the first day of school. A true open competition! Well done, Coach Joseph.
11:02: Shane Ray bends past a lineman to touch the quarterback down. Just last week, Ray was expected to miss training camp due to wrist surgery. “His doctors” decided Ray didn’t need surgery, Elway said. Even Ray’s teammates were surprised to learn the pass rusher was cleared for full participation. Von Miller called Ray right away (“He didn’t pick up, of course”) and Brandon Marshall says he didn’t expect to see Ray practicing. “I get all my news off Twitter,” Marshall said. That explains a lot.
Can the Broncos turn a productive, promising, painless Day 1 into a postseason party?
Takes one to know one, and as Aqib Talib exclaimed: Depends if they find some dogs.