ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Champ Bailey noticed a player especially eager to do some hitting in new Broncos coach John Fox's first full-padded practice Saturday.
And this wasn't some rambunctious rookie looking to make his mark.
No, it was Elvis Dumervil, the NFL sacks king in 2009 who missed all of last season with a torn chest muscle.
Bailey walked off the field following the nearly three-hour workout marveling at Dumervil's exuberance, saying: "That's probably the one person who's excited about training camp."
Dumervil was at that. He's been diligently rehabbing to get back on the field, gaining 10 pounds of muscle to be even more of a force around the edge as the Broncos switch back to a 4-3 defensive alignment.
"Normally, I'm not really looking forward to camp. But I was definitely looking forward to today," said Dumervil, who had a club-record 17 sacks in '09. "It's been a long year, so I'm definitely happy to be here."
Rookie linebacker Von Miller was back at practice Saturday a day after leaving the field with a bruised right thigh.
Miller, the second overall pick in the draft, was never all that concerned with the injury, saying it was nothing that a little rest couldn't remedy.
"It wasn't bad at all," Miller said. "The pads were great. It's been a minute since I've put them on — since the Senior Bowl. It felt good to knock off the cobwebs."
The only thing slowing Miller down was his knowledge of the playbook. He said he was thinking too much, instead of simply reacting like he did during his days at Texas A&M.
"I don't know it as well as I should," Miller said. "But that will come with time. In time, I'll get better."
Two rookies making an instant impression with Bailey were safeties Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter, who returned to practice after being carted off the field the day before with heat stress.
"We don't need rookies to act like rookies," Bailey said. "We need them to act like pros, and that's exactly what they've been doing the last few days.
"We need guys like that."
Although the Broncos recently signed three of their own free agents, kicker Matt Prater, linebacker Wesley Woodyard and defensive end Ryan McBean had to watch from the sideline instead of participate. They can't take the field until next week when free agents are allowed to practice.
The same goes for safety Brian Dawkins, who had to be an observer after restructuring his deal.
"This is driving me crazy not being out there with the guys," said Dawkins, a member of the NFLPA's executive committee.
Prater felt the same way, especially with his main competition Steven Hauschka working on his timing with long snapper Lonie Paxton and holder Britton Colquitt. That's something Prater hasn't been able to do in two months.
"I'd like to get as many reps as I can before we start playing games," Prater said. "Guess I'll get some work done outside the facility on my own."
The Broncos were missing several players due to nagging ailments, including defensive back Renaldo Hill (dehydration) and linebacker D.J. Williams (strained thigh).
All in all, Fox was satisfied with his team's performance in their first day in full pads.
"I've been very pleased with their attention and efforts," Fox said. "That's all you can ask for."
There definitely were some highlights from the morning practice, such as Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Lloyd's diving catch over the middle, an over-the-shoulder interception by Bailey on a deep pass thrown by Kyle Orton and the slick moves of LenDale White, who's showing no effects from a ruptured Achilles' heel that caused him to miss all of last season.
A bruising runner, White relished his return to contact.
"Mentally, I needed that to see where I was," White said. "Now that I know I'm able to go out there and throw it around, I feel really good."
White and fellow tailback Knowshon Moreno may soon have even more company in the backfield.
With teams releasing players, the Broncos are focused on Willis McGahee, who served as Ray Rice's backup in Baltimore the last two seasons.
That wouldn't bother White, who's used to competing for carries after playing alongside Reggie Bush at USC and Chris Johnson while a member of the Tennessee Titans.
"I'm not worried about none of that," White said with a casual shrug. "I think competition doesn't do nothing but make you better. (McGahee) is a great running back. I know he can help our depth chart. I think he can come in and do some stuff for us.
"We're all different styles of running backs. With John Fox and the way he loves to run the football, we all can contribute to the offense and do big things."
Over the offseason, Moreno shed more than 10 pounds by hitting the weights and watching his diet. He feels fitter heading into his third season.Comment on this story
And if Moreno has to share carries, he insisted that will sit well with him.
"If they ask me to carry the ball 30 times, I'm fine with that," said Moreno, who had 779 yards last season after gaining 947 his rookie year. "If they ask me to carry half of the times, I'm fine with that.
"I'm going to make the best of every opportunity I have out there."
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