Sunday, September 19, 2021

“Something back to normal at last”: Broncos fans on first day of training camp, but with caveats

Angela Sanchez, 49, woke her sleeping 14-year-old son Apollonio from the bed at 7 a.m. on Wednesday. At first Apollonio complained, “It’s summer time, Mother.”

But then he told her they were making the hour-long drive from Westminster to the Broncos facility.

“After that he got out of bed very willingly,” Sanchez said. Apollonio threw on his orange Von Miller Broncos jersey and headed to training camp for the fourth year.

Sanchez was two of 874 fans who flocked to a UCHealth training center to witness the return of Broncos football this season, the first time fans have been allowed to camp since 2019 due to COVID-19 .

Two years ago, 1,257 fans showed up on the first day of training camp that included player-fan interactions, autograph signings and photo opportunities. This year, there is no player interaction with fans due to the COVID-19 protocol.

With no autographs and no padded practice, a sprawling sea of ​​orange and blue was nowhere close to filling the facility’s grassy hillside. On a scorching hot morning, many fans rushed to the exit before the practice ended soon after noon.

Broncos linebacker Vaughn Miller opened the morning to a slow clap for fans to romp in a bit of fan conversation this time around, but a slow clap will get all the fans through.

“We’re a little disappointed to be without an autograph this year,” Angela said. “Last time we visited my stepdad was really sick and he had a Super Bowl commemorative football that he won. We probably got seven signatures from different players and it was time to bring him in before we had him. We were able to, so it’s a pity we didn’t get to do that this year.”

Both are eager to “find the answer” as to who will be Denver’s starting quarterback: Drew Locke or Teddy Bridgewater.

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“I think that’s the question here today, it’s unknown, and everyone here will keep an eye out,” Sanchez said.

Rob Jacoby, a retiree from Perry Park, made the first appearance with his grandson, Wesson, 6. The Nebraska native and Broncos fan heartily thinks the team needs to improve on consistency and growth before getting back in their place. In 2015, it was a Super Bowl winning season.

“I’m a patient fan,” Jacobi said.

For other fans, they were happy to see live football action again, even if they had no chance of meeting their favorite player.

Ashley Cook, a paralegal from Bend, Oregon, and her son Drake, 4, were in town to visit their sister in Colorado Springs for weeks and jumped at the opportunity to attend their first training camp.

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“I didn’t know what to expect when we got here,” Cook said. “But it’s really neat to see all the players, the different positions, how they break down into their different sections and show my son what professional football is like.”

Broncos “superfan” Jesse Torres, a Social Security worker from Elizabeth, proudly sported a Broncos-inspired Grim Reaper outfit in 98-degree weather for her 20th year at training camp.

An annual event for him and his family, Torres questioned the Broncos Nation’s lack of voting on the first day.

“Where are you?” Torres said. “If you’re not here, we need you here. We need people to come out, fill this field, show your support, show how blessed we are to have the Broncos in our state and the players who support them.

The drop in attendance was obvious, but coach Vic Fangio was happy to have fans back.

“It’s great,” Fangio said. “We love getting them back. Our fans are great.”

"Something back to normal at last": Broncos fans on first day of training camp, but with caveats
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