DENVER — All that's missing is you.
And that’s a big miss. It’s a big miss in that Day 1 of Broncos training camp — COVID-19 edition — felt absolutely, positively nothing like Day 1 of a normal Broncos training camp.
No line of Broncomaniacs wrapped around the Pat Bowlen Fieldhouse. No autograph sessions with the people's choice, Von Miller. No kids rolling down the grassy knoll. No food trucks.
Gosh, I miss the food trucks.
Miss you more.
“Even in watching golf you miss the fans being out there,” Broncos coach Vic Fangio said Friday.
No sports league will feel the impact of no fans like the NFL — if fans are still banned exactly one month from Friday, on Sept. 14, when the Broncos host the Titans on Monday Night Football. The Broncos are leaning on state officials before making a decision on fans.
These are Gov. Jared Polis' state officials. Don't hold your breath.
No fans will be felt in sports gambling, where oddsmakers add a point or two for certain NFL stadiums but rarely adjust the line for NHL or NBA homecourts. ("Except in Game 7 situations,” said Jay Kornegay, executive vice president of SuperBook USA). No fans will be felt, especially, in places like Seattle and Denver, where crowds can turn a game's momentum.
Are you watching these NBA and NHL bubbles? Say you’ve been living under a rock, or in Kansas City, and didn’t know they’re playing in bubbles. The piped-in music and virtual fans make it feel somewhat normal. But when 76,000 seats sit empty at Mile High, that's not normal.
Anyway, Broncos training camp. In 2019, 58,151 fans attended training camp. In 2018, 49,313. In 2017, 54,013. In 2016, 65,454.
In 2020: 0. But don’t worry. We got you. Here’s a diary of how Day 1 of camp went down:
9:06 a.m.: Fangio either really likes his team... or really likes Dean Martin. With swing blasting on the boombox, Fangio’s swaying, clapping and humming as players practice their stretching.
9:32: Two words for the first day of camp: Jerry Jeudy. Goodness gracious, friends. On which video game did the football gods design this guy? His route-running is the stuff of a 10-year NFL veteran, and their 21-year-old rookie has defenders swiping at air during drills. Yeesh!
9:43: Two-hundred-thirty miles from the blaze, the smoke from the Glenwood Canyon fire is thick, hazy, terribly sad. It hovers over Dove Valley. Prayers to the firefighters and mountain communities who are fighting back. Friends in Basalt will agree: Wildfires are no joke.
9:55: There’s pass-rusher Bradley Chubb, wearing a brace on his left knee after undergoing ACL surgery and rehabilitation.
“We’re expecting him to be totally healed and ready to go from his injury,” Fangio said.
There’s Miller, whose offseason was a lesson in introspection. His 2020 got even better Friday when the CDC revealed this juicy nugget: People recovered from COVID-19 are immune to the disease for at least three months. See, the pro athletes who contracted the coronavirus before the season actually have an advantage.
10:00: Drew Lock’s dancing again. (Can’t tell from up here if he’s rapping. Media are quarantined to the concourse at Dove Valley, where the fans usually congregate.) The Broncos’ 2020 season depends on keeping Lock healthy. No offense to backups Jeff Driskel and Brett Rypien, but the drop-off from starter to backup is most severe at quarterback — by far.
10:01: The Broncos aren't even in pads yet. Let's chill on the Jerry Jeudy hype.
10:02: Nevermind! There he goes again. With a jabby stutter-step, Jeudy loses a cornerback on a slant route, and he’s wide open for a first down. His efficiency is notable. He wastes no steps. He’s not super fast. He’s super subtle.
“We were kind of talking about it today: he can get in and out of breaks better than anyone I’ve ever seen before,” said safety Kareem Jackson, a fellow Alabama product who’s been covering NFL wide receivers for a decade. “For him to be a rookie... the way he sells things is very rare.”
10:13: The first turnover comes from linebacker A.J. Johnson, who jumps in front of a Lock pass and grabs the interception. The defense erupts and piles onto the practice field. Great play.
10:14: The play of the day comes from K.J. Hamler — the controversial draft pick — who lays out for a sweet catch from Lock. Greater play.
10:15: No one here at training camp had a better week than Noah Fant, who watched from afar as two tight ends signed contracts worth a combined $132 million. Did Fant notice the hefty deals awarded to Kansas City’s Travis Kelce and San Francisco’s George Kittle? You betcha.
“I definitely want to get there one day,” Fant said.
10:28: Lock throws his second interception of practice. It comes on a play in which all his fun toys were lined up outside: Jeudy, Hamler, Fant, Courtland Sutton. Yep, it's still all about the QB.
10:34: Now that’s more like it. Lock hits Sutton for a 35-yarder down the sideline. What do you think about this nickname for the Broncos wide receivers: Supreme Court and Judge Jeudy?
10:36: The advertisers at Broncos camp have changed with the times. Flags promoting their gambling partners wave in the wind: BetFred, BetMGM, FanDuel. It's a new day.
10:49: Jeudy... again. He jukes a defensive back to snag a first down. He's really a rookie, huh?
10:52: What about the offensive line? Here’s how the first-teamers lined up: tackle Elijah Wilkinson, guard Graham Glasgow, center Austin Schlottman, guard Dalton Risner, tackle Garett Bolles. How’d they do? Tough to say without pads. But nobody got hurt. So... good?
10:55: The NFL in 2020, where no (coronavirus) news is good news. The NFL said it has conducted 109,075 tests. Only .81 percent of players tested positive. Across players, coaches and staff, the rate was .46 percent. Once again, NFL players are safer at work than out of work.
10:56: Colorado's a state with 5.7 million people. As of Friday, 170 are hospitalized with COVID-19 — an unfortunate but seriously low number. We should be talking about having Broncos fans at home games.
Then again, has anyone checked on Mile High lately? We might have to move the goalposts.