Rod Smith will start training camp on sideline
DENVER ” The Denver Broncos are opening training camp with a big void.
The Broncos signed first-round draft pick Jarvis Moss and second-rounder Tim Crowder on Saturday, meaning there will be no holdouts when the last team in the league opens camp Sunday.
However, Rod Smith, the team’s career leader in receptions and touchdowns, is among a handful of veterans who will start camp on the physically unable to perform list.
Smith is still recovering from offseason hip surgery. He insists he hasn’t entertained thoughts of retiring but acknowledges he doesn’t have a roster spot secure.
“I’m not worried about it, I’ve just got to try to get better, and basically what that does is gives me the opportunity to go out and get the work that I need,” said Smith, who will spend his days working out with strength and conditioning coach Rich Tuten instead of catching passes from Jay Cutler.
The 37-year-old receiver who has more receptions (849), yards receiving (11,389) and touchdowns (68) than any undrafted player in NFL history, managed to gain just 512 yards last year, only the second time in 10 years he hasn’t reached 1,000.
In February he went in for what was supposed to a a routine scope but the operation turned into a major surgery to fix a torn labrum, frayed cartilage, bone spurs and floating fragments ” the result, Smith said, of his dogged determination through the years to play through pain.
Smith said he has no idea when he’ll be healthy or even if he’ll return before the season starts.
“The thing is I have to basically listen to my body for once in my life,” Smith said. “When it’s ready to go, I’ll know. And hopefully that’s in a great time frame for me to go and get back out on the field during this camp and go back to doing what I do.”
Smith said he’s encouraged by the progress he’s made in the last two or three weeks.
“I actually was jogging the other day, doing skipping and stuff outside,” he said. “And you can still feel a little bit in the area that had surgery on it but for the most part it’s a huge step compared to the last three months.”
Joining the 14-year veteran Smith on the sideline will be wide receiver Brandon Marshall (thigh) and tight end Tony Scheffler (foot), two second-year players who plan to play big roles in the offense.
Marshall is expected to unseat Smith as the team’s No. 2 wide receiver, although his injury-filled offseason has put a crimp in those plans.
“It’s a setback,” lamented Marshall, who missed most of training camp last year with a knee injury.
Marshall figured he might miss up to 10 days this time.
“It (stinks) to start off the season like this, but I’ll be back,” he said. “I’m a competitor and I’m going to push myself and I’m going to hit the books hard, so I’ll be all right.”
With Smith and Marshall out, second-year pro Domenik Hixon, who missed all of last season with a broken foot, should get plenty of snaps opposite Javon Walker.
New defensive boss Jim Bates said free agent strongside linebacker Eddie Moore will also begin camp on the PUP list because of a lingering knee injury that will likely require another arthroscopic surgery and sideline him for most, if not all, of training camp.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the job will go to fellow free agent Warrick Holdman, although the nine-year veteran will get the first shot.
“The Sam (linebacker) position on the defense is as wide open as any,” Bates said. “We’re going to try as many as five guys, watch it unfold.”
D.J. Williams, who played the position last year, has moved to middle linebacker with the release of Al Wilson, a team captain whose neck injury and high salary led to his offseason departure.
Of the Broncos’ four draft picks, three are defensive linemen: Moss, Crowder and Marcus Thomas. Crowder and Thomas signed four-year deals and Moss signed for five years Sunday morning.
“I’m just glad we got everything worked out and I didn’t have to look like a bad guy,” said Moss, a defensive end from Florida whom the Broncos selected with the 17th overall draft pick. “The organization showed us some love.”
The Broncos also waived running back Thump Belton and released defensive end Kenny Peterson, who violated the league’s policy on steroids and related substances and was going to have to sit out the first month of the season had he made the team.