'A really good football team': Russell Wilson talks TDs, confidence in Denver Broncos after Day 1 of OTAs
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Even though the snow that arrived here over the weekend had melted by the time Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos hit the practice field for the first day of organized team activities on Monday, the late-spring storm system's impact felt a bit like a reminder about the short nature of the NFL offseason.
The Broncos' new quarterback and mostly new coaching staff plan to be in contention in a loaded AFC West when winter returns to the Front Range for real, and even though that (hopefully) remains months in the distance, Wilson preached urgency for a franchise that has missed the playoffs six straight years.
“We’ve got a really good system, some good stuff, amazing stuff that we’re doing, guys are getting open and making plays," Wilson said Monday after a roughly two-hour practice. "Guys were making plays all over today, just touchdown after touchdown, making plays, great catches. The defense was making great plays, too.
“It was just such a competitive practice. It felt like a championship-type week in OTA No. 1. That’s a good feeling.”
During the first two phases of the NFL’s offseason program, teams aren’t permitted to line up units against each other, so the start of Phase Three on Monday was the first time Wilson and the Denver offense lined up with actual defensive players across the line of scrimmage.
“Russ brings a whole other element the way he commands the offense,” seventh-year safety Justin Simmons said after the red-zone heavy, non-padded afternoon. “There’s times where we’re breaking our shell as a defense a little early and so he’s figuring out, already, pre-snap where he wants to go with the ball. It’s clean, it’s quick, it’s crisp. So, it’s fun. I love it. It’s the game within the game.
“It’s not going to do anything else but make us better defensively, so I’m really excited about it.”
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A few Broncos veterans skipped the start of OTAs. Running back Melvin Gordon and outside linebacker Bradley Chubb were not in attendance. Safety Kareem Jackson, according to Simmons, was attending a graduation party for his daughter. And some, like outside linebacker Randy Gregory and tackle Billy Turner, continue to rehab from injuries.
Wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, who was arrested earlier this month on a misdemeanor charge and has a court date set for May 31, was on hand but did not participate.
“We’re just making sure everybody’s good,” head coach Nathaniel Hackett said of Jeudy’s status. a team official later said his absence was precautionary due to a minor back issue.
Wilson and Simmons, though, were among the many core players who on the field for the latest voluntary portion of the offseason program – Denver has a three-day mandatory minicamp from June 13-15 – and Simmons said that he felt it was important to be in town for this part of the calendar.
“As a leader, I’m really big on protecting your space and what’s right for you and I’ll never question that,” Simmons said of his teammates who didn’t participate. “Hey, this is voluntary and I’m not going to question other things that are going on, but for the guys that are here and are putting in the work and are around, I think it’s important. Am I going to say that next year if it’s the same systems and things like that? Maybe not. You probably have a better grasp of the system and things like that. But new defensive system, new offensive system, new teammates, new culture, I just think it’s important, obviously, to be around and be present. …
“There’s a lot of new things going on and, shoot, we haven’t won in a while, and I’m looking forward to winning and that starts now.”
For Wilson, Hackett and the rest of the Denver offense, at this stage that process includes mostly building rapport on and off the field.
“Our meeting room is very intense and it’s great because there’s so much communication and so much talking and that’s all you can ask for as a coach, because we need to be an extension of each other,” Hackett said. “I have to know every single thing he likes and it’s vice versa to make sure we’re on the same page because, at the end of the day, he’s the one out there making those plays. When we get to come out here and we have all our conversations, they come alive. That’s when you get more confidence in each other and build that trust, and that’s what it’s all about right now.
“It’s the first time we’ve been together and there’s going to be a lot of growing, but it’s going really well.”
The quarterback concurred after mixing in a rookie class for the first time and with four work weeks ahead before the group scatters for late June and most of July.
“I think you guys saw a lot of good stuff out here today,” Wilson said. “A lot of touchdowns and a lot of good things. The defense was tremendous, too. We’re going to have a really good football team, and that’s exciting and we’re excited about the opportunity to play football.”