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Broncos, Texans want to work smart

8/20/2014

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- What the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans are doing this week is rare and, in the end, took at least some risk-reward analysis before the two teams agreed to do it.

No, it's not rare that they'll have three days' worth of practices against each other before they play a preseason game Saturday night in Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Teams have done it plenty through the years, the Texans are the sixth team the Broncos have practiced against since 1996.

But the Broncos and Texans are doing this in the days leading up to the third preseason game for both teams and just three weeks before the regular-season opener. And that takes at least some thought as the two teams try to balance the benefits of getting the work in they want without exposing everyone involved to unnecessary injury risk.

"I think we did a pretty good job -- both teams -- of respecting each other, but still having an intense practice and getting after it," said Broncos tight end Julius Thomas following Tuesday's practice. "So I expect more of the same (Wednesday).”

The two teams will practice together again Wednesday and Thursday. Originally the plan had been for the two teams to practice in full gear both Tuesday and Wednesday, but after the Broncos had played on Sunday afternoon with the Texans having played on Saturday an adjustment was made.

The players worked in shells, helmets and shorts Tuesday and are now expected to work in full pads in Wednesday's practice.

"We decided to go shorts today because we were a day behind them as far as the recovery," said Broncos head coach John Fox. "I thought it went well. ... I think it's a good look, new faces for the players. There are new schemes both offensively and defensively and even in the kicking game. All in all, I think it was a good first day."

It was also a departure of sorts for Fox, who did not practice against another team in training camp at any point in his nine-season tenure as the Carolina Panthers head coach. Fox said Tuesday the last time he had worked against another team in camp was in 2001, when he was the New York Giants defensive coordinator.

Fox believes the proximity of the work, on the calendar, to the opener could also help his team and that the Broncos, despite having finished their two-a-day practice schedule of the preseason, still have a training camp mindset going.

"Camp is camp, late or early," Fox said. "These guys will tell you they get paid to practice and they would play the games for nothing. I think they did good work. I think it's a good time actually because you've been banging on the same guys for three weeks -- besides the preseason games -- but I think getting someone different is good."

For their part the players behaved Tuesday. Though some words were exchanged at times, especially in a late two-minute drill, there were no major scuffles in the two-hour workout and the teams will not tackle players to the ground in any of the workouts.

Fox and Texans head coach Bill O'Brien had discussed how the practices would be conducted and both expressed confidence the work could get done without any unnecessary conflicts. That, in the end, the benefits simply outweighed any potential downside.

"I know it is great work ... especially when we put on the pads (Wednesday) to get more of a real look in person as far as with the pads," said Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. "Receivers benefit from going against different corners every day. I think there's a benefit.”

"It's the same thing we do every day," Fox said. "We are going to take the approach that we are going to treat the Houston Texans just like we treat our own team and we expect the same from them. I don't foresee any problems."