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McDaniels era begins with Broncos first minicamp practice

DENVER, Colorado ” The ominous storm clouds looming over the Denver Broncos for once had nothing to do with Jay Cutler.

A spring snowstorm forced the team to move rookie coach Josh McDaniels’ first minicamp practice indoors Friday.

And when he went inside the bubble, the 32-year-old coach gravitated to the same spot he always has ” next to the quarterbacks.

Old habits are hard to break.

“I’ve been waiting a long time for this. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do, and it was productive. It was a productive day,” McDaniels said.

McDaniels kept a keen eye on Kyle Orton and Chris Simms, who are vying to win the starting job following Cutler’s unceremonious exit.

He offered no hint about when he would name the starter.

“Until it’s clear. Until we know exactly who the right guy should be,” said McDaniels, who mentored Tom Brady and Matt Cassel as New England’s offensive coordinator. “You know they’re doing everything they can every day, morning, noon and night to try to get themselves ready to go. I think they showed well for themselves today, both of them did.”

McDaniels was happy that he could finally focus on football, not feuds.

The Broncos dealt away a potential distraction on April 2, sending Cutler and a fifth-round draft pick to the Bears for Orton, two first-round draft picks and a third-rounder, ending a six-week feud that began when Cutler decided he didn’t want to play for Mike Shanahan’s replacement.

“Incredible. Awesome. It feels good. It’s exciting,” McDaniels said of discussing football issues again, instead of the Cutler rift. “This is what we’re here for. We’re looking forward to improving every day in the spring.”

By holding a plethora of picks in the upcoming draft ” including the 12th and 18th spots in the first round ” McDaniels said the Broncos could possibly select another quarterback.

But picking a signal caller is not a given.

“You don’t want to go to training camp with two quarterbacks, certainly,” McDaniels said. “But it’s doable if that’s what the situation is. You certainly would love to have a third quarterback that could be competitive. That’s the big thing ” we’re not just looking to bring players in here at positions just to fill a spot. If the guy can compete and actually have a chance to win a role on our team, then we’re all for it.”

Simms has thrown just two passes since undergoing emergency surgery to remove his spleen after a game in 2006.

However, it’s hardly a concern to McDaniels. That’s why the Broncos signed him to a two-year, $6 million deal over the winter to back up Cutler.

Now, he’s fighting for a starting job like just about everyone else.

“He’s totally healthy and throwing the ball well,” McDaniels said. “You couldn’t really tell any carry-over from the injury Chris suffered a couple of years ago.”

All signs, though, point to Orton possibly getting first crack under center. Orton is 21-12 as a starter.

Asked for his assessment of the quarterback situation after just one day on the field, Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey just grinned.

“Right now, it’s just two good-looking guys out there throwing the ball,” said Bailey, who’s steadily improving from offseason surgery to fix a dislocated left elbow. “I know what they’ve done around the league, but I’ve never played against them, so I really don’t know much about them.”

The Broncos are finding out more about McDaniels each and every day.

The energetic coach has spent the last three months retooling and reconstructing a Broncos squad that has missed the playoffs in each of the last three seasons.

That enthusiasm was on display Friday, Elvis Dumervil said.

“It’s kind of like that first day of school, we’re all excited,” said Dumervil, who could see some time at linebacker if the Broncos switch to a 3-4 defensive look. “That’s one thing I can say ” everyone is excited. I think we’re all going in the same direction. I think we’re going to have a special group.”

Especially now that the Cutler cloud no longer hovers overhead.

Bailey said it wasn’t really much of an issue, though. The saga made for good drama in the media, not the locker room.

“The one thing about this locker room is people come in and come out all the time,” Bailey said. “You get used to it. Especially for a guy like me, I’ve played with so many different people. For a guy like that to leave, I’m not surprised. Nothing surprises me in this league.”

Even watching his Pro Bowl passer bolt to the Bears.


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