ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are typically competitive teammates, eagerly comparing stats after Broncos games to boast about who collected more catches or gained more yards.
While the Pro Bowl receivers also cheer each other’s successes, they even turn their celebrations into contests.
“When he scored his touchdown, he almost knocked me out,” Sanders said. “I almost caught a concussion because of chest bumping him. I didn’t realize how strong he was.”
“I can’t help he weighs a buck-70,” retorted Thomas , who’s four inches taller and 50 pounds heavier than Sanders. “He’s the one who wanted to do it. He pointed up in the sky, I’m like, ‘I’m winded.'”
Thomas had just hauled in a 55-yard touchdown pass from Trevor Siemian on third-and-11 in the closing minutes that sealed Denver’s 29-17 win Sunday at muggy Cincinnati.
Thomas had chest-bumped Sanders after each of his two touchdown catches earlier in the game but he was suspicious of Sanders, figuring he was getting set up.
“I was thinking in my head that he’s going to try to out-jump me,” Thomas said. “So I’m not going to let him outjump me. So I jumped as hard as I could.”
Well, not quite.
“I jumped hard enough that he wouldn’t outjump me,” Thomas said, clarifying.
Thomas and Sanders had both griped a week earlier about their dearth of catches, yards and touchdowns this season.
They said their gripes stemmed not from selfishness but out of a sense of duty: they were embarrassed that Denver’s defense was again leading the way like it did all last season. And here’s two players with $92 million worth of contracts who hadn’t set foot in the end zone in victories over Carolina and Indianapolis.
Against the Bengals, the pair combined for 15 catches, 217 yards and three touchdowns.
“I think we can be dangerous,” Sanders said. “I think that’s the reason our articles last week said that Demaryius and me were frustrated, obviously because we know the potential of this offense.”
Thomas said, “I still don’t know if it was frustration. It was just wanting our team to be better, especially on the offensive side. We just took advantage of opportunities. Coach called great plays and we just took advantage of them so that we can show everybody that we are the best duo in the game.”
Neither Sanders nor Thomas will shy away too far from the prima donna receiver label.
“Hey, one thing, I don’t mind being a diva. I am a diva,” Sanders said. “I like winning ballgames, I like catching passes. Every wide receiver in the world likes to catch passes; every wide receiver in the world likes to put up points. After that game when the defense scored two touchdowns and you’re looking and (Aqib) Talib has more touchdowns and … we’re looking at ourselves and saying offensively that we have to step it up.”
Sanders had nine catches for 117 yards and Thomas had six receptions for 100 at Cincinnati.
Sanders scoffs at the notion that there’s only room for one outsized personality in the wide receivers room in Denver.
He suggested Thomas was “a country diva. I’m a Hollywood diva.”
That’s one point they won’t argue about.
“I’m from the country,” Thomas said, “I drive a Ford Raptor. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.”
Their rivalry is rooted in — what else — friendship and respect.
“We push each other every week to try to see who can be better, just to try to be the best that does it,” Thomas said.
Sanders said he’s so wired to win that he can’t even play a friendly game of “Connect Four” or pingpong without his competitive nature coming out.
That’s why Thomas thought Sanders was setting him up.
“I think Emmanuel did it once, maybe two years ago,” Thomas said. “And ever since then I won’t let nobody outjump me.”
Notes: The Broncos (3-0) held two “hat day” practices in preparation for another muggy afternoon this weekend against the Buccaneers (1-2). The Tampa forecast calls for high temperatures and a 60 percent chance of thunderstorms. … Ruled out for a second straight week are TE Virgil Green (calf) and RG Donald Stephenson (calf). They, along with OLB DeMarcus Ware (forearm), will make the trip after staying behind last week.
By Arnie Stapleton, AP Pro Football Writer
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