ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – Peyton Manning‘s top target is back.
Demaryius Thomas returned from bereavement leave Monday. He had missed the first 4 1/2 days of training camp for the AFC champs following the death last week of his paternal grandmother, Gladys Thomas, who helped raise him.
“I’m good. It was tough yesterday to bury my grandma, but ever since then everything’s been better,” Thomas said. “She’s in a better place now, so I’m fine and I’m ready to play football.”
Thomas’ flight from Georgia didn’t get back in time for him to participate in a spirited morning practice at Dove Valley that featured three scuffles, but he participated in the team’s evening walkthrough in shorts.
“It was good,” Thomas said. “All the guys keep me smiling, that’s the main thing, and just being back out here to do what I love, it was great.”
Gladys Thomas had been battling Alzheimer’s disease for two years, he said. She died last week, one day before Thomas reported for training camp. The Broncos excused him from camp for as long as he needed to be with his family.
“They were great,” Thomas said. “They sent flowers and everything. So, I want to want to take my hat off to the Broncos for allowing me to go and also looking out for my family and me.”
Bubba Caldwell filled in, with Emmanuel Sanders and rookie Cody Latimer also getting more work during the seven workouts Thomas missed.
Thomas arrived at the team’s headquarters toward the end of Monday’s workout. With a day off following an evening walkthrough, he won’t get his first true practice until Wednesday at Sports Authority Field.
“We’re eager to have him back and understand his situation and feel for him and whenever he’s ready, he’s ready,” receiver Wes Welker said. “We know what type of player he is, what type of person he is and we’re eager to have him out here on this football field with us.”
Thomas said he was able to watch practice film on his iPad over the weekend.
“I’m not behind, I know what’s going on,” Thomas said. “It’s just the fact of getting out here and getting in football shape.”
The Broncos won’t turn him loose right away.
“Once he gets back he will just jump right in (but) we’ll probably be smart with him, make sure that we don’t do anything crazy,” offensive coordinator Adam Gase said. “He’s not going to come out here and just run all go routes – none of that on the first day. We’ll work him back in, we’ll be smart, make sure he gets caught up to speed with his conditioning but then he will slide right in. The mental aspect of the game with him is a non-issue.”
Thomas caught a team-best 92 passes for 1,430 yards and 14 touchdowns last year. He also set a Super Bowl record with 13 receptions.
He’s entering the final year of his rookie contract and his agent and the Broncos have exchanged proposals on a long-term deal.
Denver’s defense was missing its star on Monday, too. DeMarcus Ware bruised his right leg Sunday during a practice at the Broncos’ stadium and was replaced in the front-line defense by Quanterus Smith, who had an impressive day that included a sack.
– By Arnie Stapleton, AP Sports Writer
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