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Tebow an early arrival for voluntary workouts

By Pat Graham

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, July 26 2011 3:25 p.m. MDT

Denver Broncos defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson smiles as he talks about the end of lockout and his return to camp at the Denver Broncos NFL football training facility in Englewood, Colo., on Tuesday, July 26, 2011.

Ed Andrieski, Associated Press

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Eager to get back to work, Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow beat just about everyone to the team's practice facility.

The veteran he's trying to replace wasn't as ambitious.

His future with the team uncertain, Kyle Orton didn't show up at Dove Valley on Tuesday, the first day players were allowed to voluntarily report following the 4 ½-month lockout.

Training camp opens Wednesday with the first full workout slated for Thursday.

Tebow was one of the first players to roll in for voluntary strength and conditioning, driving through the gates at 7:40 a.m., just behind offensive lineman Jeff Byers.

This soon could be Tebow's team, especially with speculation swirling that Orton's days in Denver are numbered.

Orton has started the last two seasons for Denver, posting career-best passing numbers to go with 41 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. But with the Broncos looking for a fresh start following a franchise-worst 4-12 season, Orton might be more valuable on the trade market, paving the way for Tebow to be the starter for new coach John Fox.

Teams are allowed to orchestrate trades Tuesday and Orton's name keeps surfacing. He is due more than $8 million this season, a hefty price tag with Tebow and Brady Quinn waiting in the wings.

There were more than two dozen players who arrived at the facility over the course of the day, including Brian Dawkins and Robert Ayers.

"This lockout has been a long time," defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson said. "Football is back."

The Broncos spent the day negotiating with their draft picks, including No. 2 overall selection Von Miller, who said he planned to be ready to practice when training camp starts.

"I want to come in and just learn. I don't want to put myself anymore behind than I already am," Miller said.

Miller stands to make much less money in the new labor accord, with a four-year deal likely worth about $25 million or so, some $45 million less than he could have gotten under the old setup.

"I've been playing football all my life for free. So, whatever it is, whatever my contract may be, I'm good with whatever," Miller said. "You really can't be possessive over something you didn't have."

On top of that, Miller figures he will simply make it up during his career.

"I plan on getting three, four, five contracts," Miller said, smiling. "I don't plan on just getting this one.

"I just want to play football. I'm not really worried about all that other stuff."

In his standout career at Texas A&M, Miller donned No. 40. But since linebackers/defensive ends aren't permitted to wear that jersey on this level, he's switching to No. 58. It's also a way to honor the late Derrick Thomas, whom he patterned his game after.

"I enjoyed the way he played the game," Miller said. "Hopefully, I can get some inspiration from that."

Not to mention feed off the play of teammate Elvis Dumervil, who missed all of last season with a torn chest muscle a year after leading the league with 17 sacks. Miller has already tabbed himself "Robin" to Dumervil's "Batman."

"We're here to save the day," Miller said. "I want to be there to back him up. If I can get me (a sack), I'll get me one, too."

The affable Miller was stumped, though, when asked what character Ayers should play.

"I've got to talk to Robert to see what superhero he wants to be," said Miller, who flew into town Tuesday morning. "We could be the 'Legion of Doom.'

"We just want to win. If we can create a fun atmosphere while we're doing it, it will all be good."

Less heralded rookie linebacker Mike Mohamed made his way to team headquarters on the first day as well. Like everyone else, Mohamed has been growing antsy waiting for the lockout to end.

Drafted in the sixth round, Mohamed missed out on receiving a playbook as the lockout was reinstated before he could pick one up.

Enter teammate Chevis Jackson, who made sure he received a copy, giving Mohamed a head start.

"I'm soaking everything all in, getting to see the facilities and everything for the first time," Mohamed said. "I should be pretty well caught up."

Vickerson sauntered into the building looking quite svelte after shedding 20 pounds in the offseason. The sleeker version of Vickerson should see plenty of reps in camp, especially since the Broncos are thin at the defensive tackle position. That spot will be a top priority in the furious free agency period in which teams can start signing other players Friday.

"They'll get everything rolling to the point where we can get some help in, get the guys in the camps, the people who can help us," said Vickerson, who was re-signed to a two-year deal last spring.

Under the new system, the Broncos were allowed to start negotiating with their own free agents Tuesday.

The Broncos have two restricted players in kicker Matt Prater and special teams maven Wesley Woodyard. Offensive tackle Ryan Harris and defensive tackle Marcus Thomas are unrestricted free agents.

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