ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – This is exactly what Zane Beadles visualized a year ago when he first started seeing a sports psychologist to help him blossom in the NFL.
The Denver Broncos’ left guard is coming off a Pro Bowl appearance as he heads into his fourth season in the pros, and he now sees himself as a leader of Peyton Manning’s protectors, too.
After his breakout season last year ended with a trip to Honolulu alongside Manning, Beadles has enhanced the mind games he’s employed to become a better football player. He’s now using computer-generated 3D imaging to help him prepare for what he trusts will be an even better season in 2013.
“It’s pretty cool stuff and some teams are starting to use it and I think it can be advantageous, and the way I look at it is it’s not going to hurt me, so, anything I can do to help,” said Beadles, who credited his breakout season to the work he did with the sports psychologist last year.
“I try to stick to the things that have helped me be successful in the past and keep building on that stuff and I’m still working with the sports psychologist, trying to take on more of a leadership role, maybe in my room,” said Beadles, who studied mechanical engineering at the University of Utah.
Beadles is the only Broncos starting offensive lineman to come out of the 2012 season unscathed.
The other four are coming off surgeries that limited their offseason field work: Ryan Clady (shoulder); Orlando Franklin (toe, shoulder); Chris Kuper (ankle); and J.D. Walton (knee).
Clady, a fellow Pro Bowler, hasn’t signed his $9.8 million franchise tender and has skipped all of the team’s offseason workouts so far. Kuper’s first surgery 18 months ago after a gruesome ankle injury didn’t take and he had a repair done this offseason.
With so much uncertainty surrounding the line, free agency was barely 20 minutes old when Louis Vasquez signed a four-year, $23.5 million deal that made him the team’s new right guard and the vanguard of Denver’s $65.5 million offseason splurge.
At 6-foot-5 and 335 pounds, Vasquez brings up the average weight of Denver’s projected starters to a robust 317 pounds, perfect for the enhanced ground game they figure to run with rookie Montee Ball and second-year pro Ronnie Hillman.
“Well, he’s one of the biggest people I’ve ever met in my life,” Beadles said of Vasquez.
And that’s something coming from a man who stands 6-4 and tips the scales at 305 pounds himself.
“I’m excited to see what he can do and what he can bring to us, physicality and that sort of thing that will be good for us,” Beadles said.
Beadles is the “lightest” of the linemen, but the group doesn’t lack for agility and athleticism, as evidenced by offensive coordinator Adam Gase wanting to pick up the pace and install a more up-tempo offense for Manning to operate this season.
“I love it,” Beadles said. “I feel it can be a huge advantage for us and it’s a lot of fun.”
Gase said the speed will be based on how much the receivers and tight ends can handle, but the offensive linemen know they’re going to have to adjust, too – Franklin, for example, said he’s trying to drop a few pounds.
Beadles isn’t necessarily dieting but he is preparing for a more grueling season of fastbreak football.
“We don’t have to run as far (as receivers), obviously, we just have to run into people,” Beadles said. “So, you know it depends on what’s going on in the series, too. For us, run-blocking is more tiring than pass-blocking is a lot of times, so the only thing we can do is make sure we’re in great shape and be ready to do our best with it.”
Beadles was an alternate Pro Bowl pick last year and when enough players ahead of him pulled out of the annual all-star game, he gladly flew to Hawaii to cap off a breakout season that had ended so unexpectedly with a double-overtime loss to Baltimore in the playoffs.
“The way I look at it is I was able to go last year but as an alternate, so there’s definitely another step I can take,” Beadles said. “But the big thing is really worrying about what we do as a team. If we’re successful as a team all that other good stuff falls into place.”
While so much has been made of Denver’s defensive debacles in the waning minutes of regulation in their playoff loss to the Ravens, when Jacoby Jones wasn’t jammed by Tony Carter and hauled in a game-tying 70-yard TD pass over a late-arriving Rahim Moore, Beadles said the Broncos’ offense bears some blame, too.
“A lot has been made about lots of parts of that game. For me personally, especially from an O-line standpoint, if we get one more first down in the four-minute drill and we finish with the ball in our hands, there’s not even an opportunity for them to go down and score,” Beadles said. “I think the big thing is just everybody looking at their position and themselves specifically and saying how they can get better and how we can finish games. And that will make us all better in the end.”
Notes: Broncos pro personnel director Matt Russell disputed reports he was interested in the athletic director’s job at the University of Colorado following the ouster of Mike Bohn. “While I love my alma mater and want what’s best for it, I am not pursuing a position with the University of Colorado. I am fully committed to my role with the Denver Broncos,” Russell said. … DT Kevin Vickerson was one of the more outspoken Broncos players when DE Elvis Dumervil left for Baltimore after the deadline-fueled fax fiasco in March. “I wasn’t too happy, but in this business, you can’t stay mad long,” Vickerson said, adding the Broncos will be just fine with the addition of Shaun Phillips and the growth of Robert Ayers and Jeremy Beal. … WR Eric Decker said he thinks Manning is throwing the ball harder this year: “Some of those throws that he fits into the holes you feel more zip on it and he is getting it to you quicker.”
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
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