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Broncos camp report: Wiegmann prepared to start on bench

Lee Rasizer
Rocky Mountain News
Vail, CO Colorado
Barry Gutierrez/Rocky Mountain NewsCasey Wiegmann, right, stands next to Tom Nalen during practice Tuesday. The two are battling for the starting center job.
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It’s hard to say which has been a bigger adjustment for Casey Wiegmann after seven years with the Kansas City Chiefs: the blocking scheme, or the color scheme – wearing the blue and orange he stared at across the line of scrimmage for so long.

“It’s strange, and it isn’t. When I first signed here, the first thing I thought of was Neil Smith,” Wiegmann said Tuesday, referring to perhaps the most successful Kansas City-Denver convert. “Hopefully I can duplicate what he did and win a couple Super Bowls. That would be nice. But it’s a job and you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”

Long gone are the days when going to a fierce division rival was frowned upon, even if the recent rumors are true that Al Davis tried to prevent Raiders running back LaMont Jordan from signing with the Broncos (and Patriots), despite having released the player.



“I think it was that way back in the day. . . . But I’ve got a few friends who left the Chiefs and went elsewhere and ended up coming back and beating them. That’s kind of what I’ve got in mind, too,” Wiegmann said. “(Ex-Chiefs safety) Greg Wesley went to the Raiders. It’s just what happens.”

So, too, is the realization that sometimes one has to take what he can get.



With the Chiefs, Wiegmann started 111 straight games, the longest active streak among NFL centers and third among all linemen from 2001 to ’07. In Denver, his path to the first team is blocked by Tom Nalen, who’s entering his 15th year but coming off a season-ending biceps injury and June knee surgery.

Wiegmann did run with the first-offense Tuesday as Nalen was given the first of what will be periodic off-days every few practices to keep him fresh. But there’s a good chance Wiegmann’s starting streak will end in Oakland in the season opener Sept. 8.

“I’ve been in that role before,” he said of his potential backup status. “And I knew what my role was coming in there.”



So, then, Wiegmann was familiar with Nalen before signing? Rookie Kory Lichtensteiger, upon his introduction in April, at one point mistakenly called the Broncos longest tenured player, ‘Don Nehlen.’

“Yes,” Wiegmann said with a laugh. “I knew who Tom was.”

Action Jackson

In two-tight-end formations, Nate Jackson has been paired with Daniel Graham ahead of Tony Scheffler. Jackson also has gotten first crack as a slot receiver in certain spread formations.

“Nate is ahead of Tony right now, but it’s the beginning of training camp,” tight ends coach Pat McPherson said. “And in my mind we’re getting the same amount of protections, run blocks and routes. They’re all in one big group right now.”

Jackson missed the final three months last season with a groin injury but took advantage of his offseason opportunity when Scheffler had lingering foot issues.

“Ideally, we push each other and we can both – as well as our running backs and receivers – have our talents used accordingly,” Jackson said. “We all have something to offer the team.”

Split decision

Fullback Peyton Hillis sat out for the second straight day because of a pulled left hamstring he suffered while trying to cut after a reception near the end of Sunday’s morning practice.

For a rookie seventh-rounder trying to make an impression, Hillis admitted it’s a difficult decision – wanting to hide the injury and try to plow through, or coming clean to the medical staff so he can heal properly.

“It’s hard to give up, since you’re a competitor, love football and want to be on the field,” he said, adding he feels the weight of his absence. “Inside, you kind of want to play through it no matter what it takes, but the other half of you thinks if you keep playing through it, it’s going to be worse.”

Hillis expects to miss only a few more days.

Fullback for hire

With Hillis sidelined, Michael Pittman has been taking second-team reps at fullback behind Cecil Sapp. It’s a position that’s almost entirely foreign to Pittman, a career halfback, but he’s nonetheless been “getting some great talk” from coaches and players at his fill-in efforts.

“If I’m lead-blocking the majority of time, it’s from split backs. But Peyton’s hurt and they asked me to fill in. It’s not a natural position for me. . . . I’m a little undersized to be a fullback at 223 pounds, but I’ll give it my all.”

Etc.

* Punter Sam Paulescu averaged about 51 yards on his eight attempts during the morning session, his second punting period of camp.

* Darrell Jackson has had better days. The veteran receiver twice fumbled the ball on reverses, had his helmet knocked off by cornerback Karl Paymah and, after missing an assignment, was chewed out by passing-game coordinator Jeremy Bates.

* Safety Marlon McCree intercepted Patrick Ramsey on a rollout pass to end the four-minute drill featuring both second units.

* Niko Koutouvides returned to starting middle linebacker, as the coaches continued his two-day on and off split with Nate Webster.

* Cornerback Dre Bly continued his strong camp by batting away a pass to end the move-the-ball period. Receiver Brandon Marshall caught a touchdown pass for the No. 1 offense.


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