ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Sylvester Williams plucked Peyton Manning’s throw out of the air, then the 313-pound defensive tackle raced around the right side, flipping the ball to safety Quinton Carter, who promptly dropped it with nobody between him and the end zone 50 yards away.
Williams smothered the ball, giving him an interception and a fumble recovery on the same play, the kind of thing that would normally draw a roar from the crowd at the Denver Broncos’ training camp.
Not this year.
The only ones watching practice Friday were reporters, construction workers and a few others, including former soccer great Denis Irwin of Manchester United, in town for a friendly against AS Roma in the Guinness International Champions Cup at Sports Authority Field.
The Broncos are holding training camp in relative seclusion this summer. Fans aren’t allowed to attend practices because of a $35 million makeover of the team’s training complex that won’t be finished until October.
Peyton Manning said these stealthy workouts are noticeably different without the fans.
“We are going to miss them all training camp,” Manning said. “Obviously, it’s an unavoidable situation with the construction and the logistics of it. Certainly, the building is going to be first class. I think it’s much needed and it had to be done, but the disappointment is the fans couldn’t come to training camp.
“I like having the fans out here during practice, especially when you get into that third or fourth padded practice and it’s kind of the dog days of training camp, those fans lift you up.”
More fans will actually get to see the Broncos this summer than ever before because the team is holding two practices at Sports Authority Field in addition to its annual scrimmage, all within the next week.
In 15 Dove Valley practices last season, a total of 41,925 fans came out to see the Broncos. Another 44,439 attended the stadium scrimmage, giving them a training camp record attendance of 86,364.
When the project is completed, the Broncos expect to be able to accommodate three times as many fans at Dove Valley, where average attendance at training camp last year was 2,795.
Fans missed out on a memorable play with Williams’ first interception of Manning and his decision to pitch the football to Carter.
“It was a long way from the end zone, like 60 yards. So, somebody would have caught me,” Williams explained. “So, I decided to pitch it. And I saw him right there and he pretty much had the open field.”
Trouble is, Williams said, he never was an option quarterback in his youth.
“And that’s probably why he dropped it,” Williams said. “I probably threw the ball too hard. I’ve got to take a little bit off of it next time.”
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