ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – One practice in and Manny Ramirez has yet to send any snaps sailing over Peyton Manning’s head that would incur the wrath of his quarterback.
That’s a good start for the Denver Broncos’ newest center.
Granted, there were a few slightly off-target – making Manning have to reach up to grab – and one botched exchange early in the workout on Monday, but that was about all the miscues.
Ramirez is trying to get the hang of things quickly, because this season could very well hinge on his hikes as he steps for Dan Koppen, who suffered a season-ending knee injury over the weekend.
For a player who’s never snapped a ball in an NFL game, Ramirez appeared awfully calm. Then again, he does have Manning standing behind him and telling him precisely what to do.
Not that Ramirez receives any special treatment just because he’s a relative newcomer to snapping the ball. Newcomer or not, Manning expects the best, which Ramirez appreciates.
“I’m the type of person that if something is wrong, I need to know about it,” said Ramirez, who was rushed by reporters as he returned from the weight room to chat about his new role.
“I’d rather him point it out right there and then, than have to wait and try to figure it out later on. I’d rather get it done now.”
The Broncos were dealt quite a blow on Sunday when Koppen, who started 12 games under center last season, tore his left ACL in 9-on-7 drills. Koppen was brought in just last month to fill in for J.D. Walton, who’s had a setback in his return from ankle surgery.
Next up, Ramirez.
The team also brought in Steve Vallos, a six-year veteran who has played in Seattle, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Jacksonville with nine career starts.
Vallos spent most of the morning session standing next to offensive consultant Alex Gibbs, someone Vallos got to know from their time with the Seahawks.
“A lot of new words, new terminology, new people,” Vallos said in describing his first day in Broncos camp. “It just takes time and we just have to make the most of what we have.”
And what the Broncos have is a banged-up offensive line. All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady has been limited at training camp due to a right shoulder. He spent most of the morning session watching in sweat pants.
Tackle Orlando Franklin (toe, shoulder) and guard Chris Kuper (ankle) are also coming off surgeries. Franklin is back on the field, while Kuper is still mending.
Asked if he might consider moving Kuper to center once he returns, coach John Fox said he’s open for just about anything.
“Right now we are trying to get him healthy,” Fox said. “We will pretty much cross that bridge when we get there. He definitely is an option, same as J.D. Walton. Right now they are not out there, so it is all a consideration.”
Although Koppen was the starting center most of last season, the team intended to use Ramirez heading into 2013. The seventh-year pro took all the snaps in offseason practices, trying to build a rapport with Manning.
The veteran QB constantly offers subtle – and not-so-subtle – pointers.
“He loves to communicate a lot,” Ramirez said. “I think we have a pretty good understanding (of one another).”
Ramirez has a familiar face on the line next to him in right guard Louis Vasquez, his teammate at Texas Tech.
“We’re like brothers. We have that comfort level,” said Ramirez, who started 11 games at right guard last season. “I look at it as a blessing to be able to play at this level with your brother right next to you. So, we’re looking forward to it.”
Ramirez really didn’t have any major blunders Monday, besides that botched exchange. He said his biggest adjustment will be shotgun situations – something he could find himself in quite a bit given the Broncos’ hurry-up offense.
“It’s just something (where) you have to continue to work at it,” Ramirez said. “I’m just out there trying to do my job and trying to step in and all that. I’m going to do whatever it takes.
“I’m just going to try to keep pushing forward.”
As for his injury-riddled line, Fox doesn’t seem too concerned at the moment.
“We feel decent where we are,” he said. “We always hate losing people for the season, but we will march on.”
NOTES: Broncos DT Sylvester Williams hobbled off the field and into the facility after hurting his left knee midway through practice. “It doesn’t appear to be super serious, but they all could be so we will keep you posted on exactly what it was,” Fox said. … DE Robert Ayers (hamstring) and TE Jacob Tamme (quadriceps) also left practice early Monday. … Asked if backup QB Brock Osweiler could possibly be starting by now if he were with another organization, Fox chuckled and said: “He hasn’t come to me complaining that he thinks he is better than Peyton at this point.”
– By Pat Graham, AP Sports Writer
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