ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — It was a tough day for the Denver Broncos’ rookies.
Linebacker Von Miller, the second overall pick in the draft, left practice early with a bruised right thigh Friday, just 24 hours after signing a four-year, $21 million deal.
Less than a half hour later, safety Quinton Carter, a fourth-round pick from Oklahoma, was carted off the field suffering from heat stress.
The Broncos dodged a couple of close calls.
Miller went down about halfway through the workout and trainers spent more than 10 minutes stretching his right leg and hip before he hobbled back to the sideline and then limped off the field into the team’s training facility.
“It was just a bruise; it’s not a pull or anything like that,” coach John Fox said. “We’ll evaluate, and when he’s ready, put him back out there.”
Same with Carter.
The Broncos released running back Correll Buckhalter, tight end Daniel Coats and fullback Mike McLaughlin on Friday.
The release of Buckhalter doesn’t mean the Broncos are set at running back.
“No, I don’t think any position on our team is set,” Fox said. “There’ll be things that if we think we can improve, we will, but otherwise, we’ll coach the heck out of the guys we’ve got and try to improve them daily.”
With teams starting to release players, the Broncos are hoping to beef up their ground game and are focused on running back Willis McGahee, who was Ray Rice’s backup in Baltimore the last two seasons.
McGahee, who worked with Broncos running backs coach Eric Studesville while both were with the Buffalo Bills from 2004-07, would share snaps with Knowshon Moreno.
McGahee would also take pressure off Kyle Orton should the Broncos keep their starting quarterback rather than trade him, a scenario that looks likelier by the day.
On Friday, Miami quarterback Chad Henne unintentionally served up a scoop by telling reporters the team had reached a contract agreement with free-agent quarterback Matt Moore, a deal that likely takes Miami out of the market for Orton, who’s due $8.829 million this year and is clearly Denver’s best quarterback.
“As I said yesterday, and I’ll just repeat the same thing: Kyle’s on our team and had another good practice today,” Fox said.
Orton completed all his passes in 7-on-7 drills until Miller picked one off minutes before he hurt his thigh.
Fox said he wasn’t necessarily expecting injuries early in camp given that there were no OTAs or medical supervision of players’ offseason workouts during the 4 1/2-month lockout.
“I think, first of all, even early on in our conditioning test, I was really impressed with the kind of condition they were in,” Fox said. “Bumps and bruises are a part of football.”
Even with the new rules dictating less contact and fewer two-a-days practices in full pads.
The Broncos will have their first full-padded practice Saturday morning, allowing the coaching staff to get its best gauge on the roster following two workouts in shells and a walkthrough without helmets.
“That’s some real football right there,” rookie safety Rahim Moore said. “I’m ready. I’m excited.”
A lot of guys are.
“They don’t get to do that in the offseason, so this will be the first time (this) year, and it’s really the first time I’ll get to see them in pads,” Fox said. “So I’m excited; I think they’re excited.”
One thing fans will have to wait for is goal-line drills.
“We won’t start quite that fast,” Fox said. “It has been a year.”
The last rookie holdout was third-round draft pick Nate Irving of North Carolina State, who will compete for the Broncos’ middle linebacker spot. He joined his teammates about 45 minutes into the workout after signing his contract with just a half-week’s worth of playbook study.
“It’s tough, but that’s what happens when you’re a rookie,” he said. “You won’t know everything, but you’ve got to show the coaches that you’re willing to play 100 mph and do what you’ve got to do.”
Safety Rahim Moore of UCLA participated in his first practice after signing late Thursday.
“I made a few mistakes today, but everything I did, I did full speed,” Moore said.
On the labor front, safety Brian Dawkins said the Broncos voted unanimously in favor of recertifying the NFL Players Association as a union and of ratifying the league’s new labor deal.
Dawkins, who is on the executive committee of the NFLPA, said the Broncos gathered on the eve of their first practices of training camp and went over everything before the players signed their union cards and gave the 10-year accord their OK.
Dawkins called it “an easy sell,” but insisted it wasn’t a rubber stamp.
“We didn’t want to come into the locker room and, ‘Hey, here’s your card, here’s your card, here’s your card. Sign this and get it back to me.’ No, sit down, let’s talk about it and let’s explain it,” Dawkins said.
Once the NFLPA regains its union status, it can finish negotiating the labor agreement with the NFL. Having that done will allow players who have agreed to new deals to join their teams.
That’s when Dawkins will be allowed back on the field, too.
He’s been an observer while his contract is being reworked to give the Broncos some financial flexibility. While not ideal, he said the extra week’s worth of a layoff is basically insurance against injury should the deal somehow fail to get ratified by the players.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)