ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — With the exception of fullback Spencer Larsen, who said his wife kicked him out of the house at sunrise, Denver Broncos players weren't in a huge hurry to get back to work Friday when the NFL reopened for business.
Those who did show up — and there were 17 by midday — were eager to get their thick, new playbooks and, in some cases, meet their new position coaches.
Larsen arrived at 6:30 a.m., 90 minutes before any of his teammates, and had finished his workout in the gym long before the others began trickling in to the team's Dove Valley headquarters.
"That's the type of guy Spencer is," said defensive end Robert Ayers, who showed up next, at 8 a.m.
The Broncos told their players that workouts Friday and Monday are voluntary and the offseason conditioning program starts Tuesday.
That is, unless things change again.
The NFL cleared the way for some basic football operations to begin Friday morning, five days after a federal judge declared the lockout illegal and nearly seven weeks after it began. But the league is asking the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to restore the lockout as soon as possible.
That's why it was important to take advantage of this window of opportunity and get the new playbooks, Ayers said.
"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.
If the players are locked out again, "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 will begin to start earning some of their offseason workout money beginning next week, so long as the lockout isn't back in place.
"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."
Safety Brian Dawkins, a member of the players association's executive board, who organized a visit by 10 players to the team's headquarters Thursday, said he was glad to be back.
"Absolutely, finally get a playbook, that's a good thing," Dawkins said.
Denver has a new coach in John Fox and half of his staff is new, too. So, few teams needed this opportunity to distribute playbooks and touch base with the players like the Broncos, who are coming off a 4-12 season, the worst in their 51-year history.
Larsen is known as a workout fiend but he said he had other reasons for showing up so early: With three kids under 4, he quipped that he needed some peace and quiet, and besides, he insisted that his wife, Ann, was the one pushing him out the door.
"Yeah, that's it. Like, 'Get out of here. You're throwing off my groove here,'" Larsen said.
The extra family time was a silver lining to the lockout — "Yeah, to a point. Your wife wants you out of the house. She had everything dialed in during the season. The kids behave in a certain way and Dad lets them get away with a lot more," Larsen said.
A dozen players had arrived by the time chief of football operations John Elway strolled into Dove Valley at 9 a.m. to meet with Fox and general manager Brian Xanders over their strategy for Day 2 of the NFL draft.
With the second overall pick Thursday night, they selected pass-rusher extraordinaire Von Miller of Texas A&M, a move that Ayers said he loved.
"We're going to be a relentless defense," said Ayers, who is moving back to 4-3 defensive end opposite Elvis Dumervil after spending the last two seasons at outside linebacker in the 3-4 system — Miller's position.
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