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Broncos camp: Webster glad to be back in middle of things

Rocky Mountain News
Vail, CO Colorado

Nate Webster apparently is in peak physical condition.

He’s not in bad shape, either, when it comes to his position battle.

On Sunday, Webster ran with the first team at middle linebacker after Niko Koutouvides was No. 1 the first two days of practice. That revolving pattern should continue until one of the players establishes a firm grip on the starting job.

“That’s fair to me,” Webster noted. “As far as competing for the position, it’s better than staying with the ‘twos,’ and you get a chance to switch up tempo.”

Webster started last season at strong-side linebacker. But he’s a more natural fit in the center of the defense as a between- the-tackles defender.

“I call it home. That’s what I’ve played all my life . . . ,” he said. “I’m real excited about it.”

The staff also is pleased with Webster’s offseason participation, which has resulted in him being “in the best shape I’ve ever seen him in,” according to coach Mike Shanahan. When Webster first came to Denver in 2006, he still was feeling the aftereffects of a torn right patella tendon.

“I had to damn near start over again. But that’s not even a question anymore,” he said. “And last year, I finished the season healthy and didn’t miss any games, so that was one of my first goals I did reach. My next goal was to stay healthy and play hard.”

Webster finished 2007 second on the team in tackles, with 100 (77 solo), playing on the strong side. Both numbers were career bests.

“Nate did some good things even at the strong-side linebacker spot last year,” defensive coordinator Bob Slowik said. “He flashed some talent in the run game and was physical and explosive. But we thought him being inside in the middle would be the most natural position, and having those two compete is good. And it’s tight. They’ve both been doing really good things.”

Nursing along

The Broncos gave defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson the morning off Sunday, continuing a pattern of affording the veteran plenty of time off throughout offseason workouts to make sure he’s ready for the opener.

Robertson had left wrist surgery Jan. 6 and has a degenerative condition in his left knee.

“You do need to get in football shape. These practices (off) are hurting me but helping me, physically. It’s going both ways,” he said. “But I’ll be ready.”

In New York, with the Jets, Robertson “practiced every practice, every play, all that kind of stuff,” which he said he could do here.

But he also appreciates the team keeping him fresh.

“It’ll add years to your career and, hopefully, allows you to play longer than if you were playing for a team that grinds you out all the time,” he added.

Head games

The heat and pace of training camp might be initially jarring to some players, but guard Ben Hamilton so far is feeling rejuvenated.

“I really missed my teammates last year, so it’s good to be back out there. And I do appreciate it,” he said.

Hamilton hadn’t gone through a full-scale practice in almost a year before the past three days because of severe post-concussion syndrome. There initially was some doubt as to whether he could continue his career last summer and fall before he regained his equilibrium and workouts no longer caused ill effects.

“It definitely was a battle,” Hamilton recalled. “Watching the season last year at home, I felt pretty guilty, like I had let the team down. I’m glad to be back.”

And no one is taking it easy on him, either, as he returns to the first unit at left guard.

“Those linebackers are trying to kill me and take off my head,” he said. “But I feel great.”

Father knows best

Jarvis Moss had a conversation with his dad before training camp, where they mapped out the player’s goals for 2008.

“I felt if I went out and got eight-plus sacks this year, it would be great,” Moss said. “I think that would contribute a lot. Hopefully, it will be more.”

Moss is a part of the nickel pass rush and running with the second unit in base formations. There don’t seem to be any problems with the broken fibula that ended his rookie season.

Even-Steven

Broncos special teams coach Scott O’Brien is planning on giving punters Sam Paulescu and Brett Kern equal time in training camp. That includes the preseason games, where the two might alternate each punt instead of being assigned halves before games.

Paulescu and Kern have punted once apiece so far in camp, and Kern has the early edge. In a wind-aided session Saturday, the rookie averaged 69 yards with 4.6-second hang time.

Kern’s leg isn’t the question. He must maintain consistency, one of Paulescu’s strengths.

Etc.

* The Broncos did their first move-the-ball drill of camp. Running back Michael Pittman, running with the second unit, fumbled against the first-team defense after getting sandwiched by linemen Kenny Peterson and John Engelberger. No. 1 back Selvin Young had a nice open-field juke against cornerback Karl Paymah off a swing pass. Ryan Torain, running with the third team, planted and cut back hard on a first-down carry against the third-team defense.

* Andre Hall and rookie Eddie Royal aligned deep during kickoff returns.

* Right guard Chris Kuper broke the fifth metacarpal in his right hand on the opening day of camp, an injury that should take four to six weeks to heal. After wearing a smaller cast Saturday, he switched to a bulkier protective covering Sunday that covers the entire hand.

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