2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Broncos vowing to avoid annual late-season swoon

    2012-11-23 13:35

(Eds: Adds details, quotes. With AP Photos.)
By ARNIE STAPLETON
AP Pro Football Writer

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) - Champ Bailey insists the script in Denver is finally going to flip this year.

For most of the last decade, the Broncos have made late-season swoons an annual rite of winter in the Rocky Mountains.

Altitude. Aptitude. Attitude. Whatever the reasons, the Broncos have followed strong starts with fading finishes. In the six seasons before this one, they were 23-34 in November, December and January.

It'll be different this season, vows Bailey, who points to a new strength and conditioning coach who uses cutting edge techniques and philosophies, and a new quarterback who won't allow anybody to let up.

The Broncos (7-3) can wrap up a 4-0 November with a win at Kansas City (1-9) on Sunday, and their December slate includes a rematch against the Chiefs and just one game - at Baltimore - in which they might be underdogs.

After a brutal early-season schedule when Peyton Manning was still finding his new bearings, the Broncos have built a three-game cushion in the AFC West on the strength of a five-game winning streak, and their remaining opponents are a combined 20-30.

A walk through the Broncos locker room, however, doesn't reveal any let-up, no sighs of relief or perilous swagger that was evident in other years following their AFC championship game appearance after the 2005 season.

The Broncos lost five of their last seven in 2006, four of their last six in `07, and Mike Shanahan was fired after they blew a three-game lead over San Diego with three weeks to go in `08.

Josh McDaniels' first team lost eight of its last 10 after a 6-0 start, missing the playoffs in 2009. He didn't even make it through the next season, getting fired in the midst of a franchise-worst 4-12 campaign that was marked by an embarrassing videotape scandal and six losses in their last seven games.

John Fox entered the fray last year, but after going 4-0 in November during the height of Tebowmania, the Broncos lost their last three games, backing into the playoffs at .500.

The Broncos also started strong and staggered down the stretch from 2001-04, so this nasty habit goes back a ways.

Bailey figures this group is better prepared both physically and mentally to handle the stretch run, and the two biggest reasons for this optimism are the arrivals of Manning, with his notorious high standards keeping everybody on point, and strength and conditioning coach Luke Richesson.

Richesson, 38, replaced longtime strength and conditioning coach Rich Tuten. He followed defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio to Denver from Jacksonville, where he worked for three seasons after an eight-year stint as the performance team director at the renowned Athletes' Performance in Tempe, Ariz.

A former safety at Kansas and the husband of 1992 Olympic gold medal swimmer Anita Nall, Richesson uses new-fangled techniques in his training programs, including MMA drills during offseason workouts. His program focuses on flexibility, stretching and maintaining core strength, which the Broncos say have reduced pulled muscles and other soft-tissue injuries and which they believe will help them avoid late-season fatigue from all of their training at mile-high altitude.

``I think he's done a tremendous job,'' Fox said. ``I think the science of strength and conditioning, in particular in football, has changed quite a bit. It's differed over history from maybe some other sports, whether it be baseball or basketball. I think football is coming back to a little bit more of that style and that science.''

Fullback Chris Gronkowski, who has played in Dallas and Indianapolis, said he was surprised when he first worked out in Denver in the offseason because players stretched for half an hour before picking up a single weight.

Rather than trying to stretch out tight muscles in the cold weather, the Broncos also conduct their walkthroughs at the start of practice now and only after their blood is pumping 30 minutes later do they gather for stretching exercises.

The muscle pulls that dogged them in the past are fewer and farther between nowadays. They've had 100 percent participation in practice several times this month, almost unheard of for NFL teams once the leaves begin to fall.

``This is the healthiest team I've been on,'' Gronkowski said. ``Either we're getting lucky or this stuff is working.''

Bailey has become a big fan of Richesson's.

``His program is more structured. I think what we did in the past wasn't bad. It's just making sure everybody gets the right work done. We focus on that, so we know everybody's doing the same thing, straying strong,'' Bailey said. ``That's the main thing, just trying to be strong this time of the year. So, he really measures your strength to see how you are, if you're backing down or whatever.''

That's why Bailey said the usual late-season swoon isn't on the Colorado horizon this year.

``And it's a lot more mental than people say. It's not all physical,'' Bailey said. ``As the season goes on, you kind of get caught up in that routine, just forget how you got there, what it takes to get going, getting better. And I think now we've got a mentally strong team, so I don't see that happening.''

Helping form that mental tenacity is Manning, who is such a stickler for detail and efficient preparation that nobody dares slack off in practice or meetings, wide receiver Brandon Stokley said.

Bailey, Stokley and other veterans who have been through the fading finishes that ruined strong starts in Denver, such as Wesley Woodyard, D.J Williams and Elvis Dumervil, have another drill sergeant on their side now.

``Yeah, all the leaders have got to play a role in that because we've been here, done it,'' Bailey said. ``We've seen it go bad. Now, we're seeing it get better.''

---

Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

---

Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Terrence ToliverAug 1 05:02p

Free-agent CB Brandon E. Smith (Bills), WR Terrence Toliver (Bears), TE Brett Brackett (Dolphins) and OG Jared Smith (Seahawks) all officially cleared waivers and became free agents Friday, Aug. 1.

Allen RobinsonAug 1 11:52a

Updating a previous report, Jacksonville Jaguars WR Allen Robinson (hamstring) will miss at least two weeks with a hamstring injury.

Tandon DossAug 1 10:22a

Jacksonville Jaguars WR Allen Robinson (hamstring) and WR Tandon Doss (undisclosed), DT Jordan Miller (undisclosed) and LB John Lotulelei (leg) will miss an extended period of time.

Marshawn LynchJul 31 08:32p

Seattle Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch will make $6.5 million in base salary this season instead of $5 million, according to a league source. Lynch will now be guaranteed an [ More ]

Jonathan GrimesJul 31 05:52p

Houston Texans RB Jonathan Grimes (undisclosed) and LB Trevardo Williams (undisclosed) have been activated from the Non-Football Injury list and Physically Unable to Perform list, respectively.

Marshawn LynchJul 31 05:22p

Seattle Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch arrived in Seattle Thursday, July 31, according to a source. Lynch officially ended his holdout from training camp.

Jared SmithJul 31 04:52p

The Seattle Seahawks waived OG Jared Smith (undisclosed) from the Reserve/Injured list with an injury settlement Thursday, July 31.

Terrence ToliverJul 31 04:52p

Chicago Bears WR Terrence Toliver (toe) was waived with an injury settlement Thursday, July 31.

Steve GregoryJul 31 04:32p

The Kansas City Chiefs signed free-agent SS Steve Gregory (Patriots) Thursday, July 31, to an undisclosed deal.

Matt SlaterJul 31 03:32p

The New England Patriots have activated WR Matthew Slater (undisclosed) from the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list.

Chris WhiteJul 31 03:32p

New England Patriots WR Josh Boyce (leg) and LB Chris White (undisclosed) participated in practice Thursday, July 31. Both players sat out practice Wednesday, July 30.

Peria JerryJul 31 03:22p

Atlanta Falcons DT Peria Jerry announced his retirement Thursday, July 31.

Marshawn LynchJul 31 03:22p

Seattle Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch will not receive a new deal and added money, but the team is expected to add some financial concessions to his contract.

Ronald JohnsonJul 31 01:52p

The Seattle Seahawks signed WR Ronald Johnson (Eagles) Thursday, July 31. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Anthony McCoyJul 31 01:42p

Seattle Seahawks TE Anthony McCoy (Achilles') was placed on the Reserve/Injured list Thursday, July 31.

Frank AlexanderJul 31 01:42p

Carolina Panthers DE Frank Alexander said he will not appeal his four-game suspension, because he was guilty of violating the NFL's policy.

Chad HenneJul 31 01:32p

Jacksonville Jaguars QB Chad Henne is in no danger of losing his starting job at this point, according to head coach Gus Bradley. Henne has looked comfortable during practice and is performing well.

Blake BortlesJul 31 01:32p

Jacksonville Jaguars QB Blake Bortles worked on his development and has progressed faster than originally anticipated, according to offensive coordinator Judd Fisch. 'I think that one of the things [ More ]

Aldon SmithJul 31 01:22p

San Francisco 49ers LB Aldon Smith will meet with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell Friday, Aug. 8. Smith is facing a suspension for three felony gun charges and a DUI.

David WilsonJul 31 01:12p

Doctors for New York Giants RB David Wilson (neck) are very hesitant to clear him to return to football after suffering a neck stinger in practice.

Tony RomoJul 31 01:12p

Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo (back) said he is not sure if he will play in the team's preseason opener Thursday, Aug. 7. 'You're constantly evaluating it and you're [ More ]

Rueben RandleJul 31 12:32p

New York Giants WR Rueben Randle (hamstring) said his hamstring is feeling better and he expects to practice Thursday, July 31.

Donald ThomasJul 31 12:32p

The Indianapolis Colts placed OG Donald Thomas (quadriceps) on the Reserve/Injured list Thursday, July 31.

David WilsonJul 31 12:01p

New York Giants RB David Wilson (neck) 'needs a miracle' from his surgeon's evaluation to be able to continue his playing career, according to a source.

David WilsonJul 31 11:52a

New York Giants RB David Wilson (neck) attended team meetings Thursday, July 31, and appeared ready to go, according to RB Rashad Jennings.

Brent UrbanJul 31 11:42a

Baltimore Ravens DE Brent Urban (knee) suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament during practice Wednesday, July 30, and will miss the entire 2014 season.

Lance LouisJul 31 11:32a

Indianapolis Colts OG Jack Mewhort appears to be the leading candidate for the starting left guard job. OG Lance Louis is also considered a candidate for the job.

Donald ThomasJul 31 11:22a

Indianapolis Colts OG Donald Thomas (quadriceps) is scheduled to undergo season-ending quadriceps surgery and will be placed on the Reserve/Injured list, according to head coach Chuck Pagano.

Nick BarnettJul 31 11:12a

Free-agent LB Nick Barnett (Redskins) is still an option for the Atlanta Falcons depending on what happens with the team's linebackers. The Falcons worked out Barnett in June but did not sign him.

Josh GordonJul 31 10:42a

Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon is not practicing Thursday, July 31, and presumably will miss practice Friday, Aug. 1, to attend his suspension appeal hearing.

Eric BerryJul 31 10:32a

Kansas City Chiefs SS Eric Berry (leg, foot) was carted off at practice Thursday, July 31, with a right leg or foot injury. SS Jerron McMillian has taken his place.

Jordan TodmanJul 31 09:52a

Jacksonville Jaguars RB Toby Gerhart is expected to be spelled by RBs Jordan Todman, Denard Robinson and Storm Johnson so he doesn't reach the 300-carry plateau.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2014 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group