Broncos stick to defense but don't land a tackle

By Arnie Stapleton

Associated Press

Published: Friday, April 29 2011 9:25 p.m. MDT

"This time off hasn't allowed us to go over the plays, and I got that with me now," Ayers said, pointing to a thick binder on the passenger seat of his Hummer as he left the facility Friday morning.

With the lockout back in place, "at least we can be learning the playbook because we got a new scheme and we're going to have to familiarize ourselves and get going," Ayers said. "So, it's definitely a bonus."

Speaking of bonuses, several players were set to start earning some of their offseason workout money beginning next week before the league reinstated the lockout.

"Yeah, you know, everybody's making that out to be a big thing, but the biggest thing is that we want to be able to work out and work with the team," Ayers said. "The bonus is a plus, but we definitely want to get over here and get things going and learn the playbook and start building the team."

Few teams needed this opportunity more than Denver to distribute playbooks and touch base with the players. The Broncos are coming off a 4-12 season, the worst in their 51-year history, which led to Josh McDaniels' firing after just 22 months on the job.

Fox said it wasn't clear if the Broncos would be able to distribute playbooks to any of their draft picks besides Miller, who visited team headquarters Friday.

While Franklin was told he'll step in at right tackle, Irving said the Broncos told him they like him at middle linebacker, the position he played last season following his horrific auto accident in June 2009.

Authorities said he fell asleep at the wheel and crashed his SUV, sustaining injuries that included a collapsed lung and a compound fracture in his left leg. After recovering from his injuries, Irving earned first-team All-ACC and third-team AP All-America honors after ranking sixth nationally in tackles for loss with 20.5. An NCAA-record eight of them came in the Wake Forest game.

"I think there's a lot of guys walking around with plates and screws if they play football," Fox said. "... We would not have taken him if we did not feel good about him medically."

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